In mid-2014, the People’s Republic of China deployed an oil rig, protected by Chinese coast guard vessels, into waters claimed by Vietnam. Prior to this, the Chinese tried to prevent the resupply of Philippine Marines based on the Second Thomas Shoal in March 2014. Hence, buoyed by an economy that fuels its regional military preponderance, Beijing appears determined to realize its ambition of annexing the South China Sea and its territories.
However, despite Vietnamese and Filipino naval inferiority vis-à-vis China, they need not resign themselves to the slow erosion of their sovereignty, eventual relinquishment of their Exclusive Economic Zones, and their claim to South China Sea territories. Indeed, Vietnam has recently acquired Russian Kilo-class submarines and ordered Dutch Sigma-class corvettes, while the Philippines has taken delivery of two former U.S. Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, in attempts to shore up their maritime projection capabilities. However, more needs to and can be done to balance the ever increasing Chinese deployment of coast guard vessels to the South China Sea.