(Reuters) – Vietnam will soon have a credible naval deterrent to China in the South China Sea in the form of Kilo-class submarines from Russia, which experts say could make Beijing think twice before pushing its much smaller neighbor around in disputed waters.
A master of guerrilla warfare, Vietnam has taken possession of two of the state-of-the-art submarines and will get a third in November under a $2.6 billion deal agreed with Moscow in 2009. A final three are scheduled to be delivered within two years.
While communist parties rule both Vietnam and China and annual trade has risen to $50 billion, Hanoi has long been wary of China, especially over Beijing’s claims to most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Beijing’s placement of an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam earlier this year infuriated Hanoi but the coastguard vessels it dispatched to the platform were always chased off by larger Chinese boats.