Sort of Sir Julian Corbett meets Woody Allen. (“Ninety percent of life is just showing up”. ) From Forbes.com:
On Wednesday, Vietnamese officials announced that one of China’s ships intentionally rammed two of their Sea Guard vessels. The incidents took place on Sunday, the 4th. Six were injured, according to Hanoi.
“Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels,” said Tran Duy Hai of the Foreign Ministry at a news conference. Other officials said six other Vietnamese craft were hit.
The incidents occurred after China National Offshore Oil Corp., better known as CNOOC , had on May 2 towed a deep-water rig, the size of several football fields, to an area that Hanoi claims is within its exclusive economic zone, near the Paracel Islands.
This is not some commercial venture, nor can any Chinese incursion of this type ever be so considered.
…it is clear that the company was using the rig at Beijing’s behest. “This reflected the will of the central government and is also related to the U.S. strategy on Asia,”said a Chinese oil official, speaking anonymously to Reuters, about drilling in Vietnam’s waters. “It is not commercially driven. It is also not like CNOOC has set a big exploration blueprint for the region.”
It did not take long for Chinese leaders to test President Obama’s general commitment to maintain regional security after his eight-day, four-nation “reassurance” visit there at the end of last month. …This is the first time China has drilled in Vietnamese waters. Moreover, this is the first time Beijing openly used its “gray hulls”—navy ships—in close support of “white hulls”—civilian maritime craft—while enforcing a territorial claim, according to the Nelson Report, the Washington insider newsletter. There are seven Chinese naval ships in the vicinity of the rig.
Perhaps President Obama and his Administration can begin to appreciate the value of a truly global Navy with sufficient hulls and capabilities to protect US interests and that of her allies. An inadequate number of large, expensive capital ships cannot provide adequate forward presence in all the places in which such presence is required, irrespective of the relative combat power of the individual warship. Wednesday’s events near the Paracels provides an object lesson of precisely that. China’s example of the use of an “influence squadron” is a telling one. The PLA Navy is where the PRC wishes it to be in order to further Chinese interests. Those interests are being furthered at the direct expense of US interests. And the US Navy, stretched past the breaking point by global commitments with a shrinking force, is notably absent in the role of forward presence.
The entire episode of China’s expansion of exploration into the Paracels, the erecting of a massive rig structure, and the protection of that rig with Navy units shows also that The People’s Republic of China is no more intimidated by the hollow platitudes of President Obama’s guarantees to our Asian allies than Vladimir Putin is by Obama’s incessant harping on non-existent “consequences” for actions along Russia’s borders. Once again, we have rivals and potential adversaries who understand power. The ability to influence allies and enemies to act in a way which is in consonance with one’s national interests, and the willingness to use all the elements of national power to bring that about.
The common thread along both Russia’s western border and the South China Sea is a feckless and vacillating United States, whose statecraft is in the hands of naive and talentless amateurs who are rapidly dismantling their own military capabilties. Small wonder our allies are not reassured by the words of our President. Because, like our rivals East and West, they know those words are without consequence, because they are without the will (nor soon, the means) to give them meaning.