TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Within days of President Obama concluding his recent trip to Asia, which was meant to reinforce America’s commitment there as the Chinese threat grows, China attacked Vietnamese vessels to advance its claim over disputed waters and to test Washington’s resolve. A firm, multilateral response is needed to avoid escalation and to demonstrate that China’s combativeness pushes its adversaries together and closer to the U.S.
China has sought to aggressively expand its control of the East and South China Seas, where its claims conflict with those of other countries. Throughout 2011, China harassed Vietnamese fishing and oil exploration vessels. In June 2012, after India and Vietnam agreed to jointly explore oil in the South China Sea, a Chinese navy vessel shadowed Indian ships traveling in international waters between the Philippines and South Korea. In mid-2012, China expelled Filipino ships from the Scarborough Shoal, which is 399 miles closer to the Philippines than China. In November 2013, China expanded its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) to cover parts of the East China Sea claimed by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. In March 2014, China blocked the Philippines from resupplying a ship in disputed territory.