On Thursday, China’s state-run Global Times newspaper warned Vietnam against the deployment of rocket launchers targeting Chinese facilities reminding Hanoi of the devastation that ensued the last time the two countries went to war.
"If Vietnam’s latest deployment is targeting China, that would be a terrible mistake," said the editorial. "We hope Vietnam will remember and draw some lessons from history."
The statement follows a Reuters report, citing “Western officials,” that Vietnam had deployed advanced mobile rocket launchers targeting China’s runways and military installations amid a brewing regional dispute in the South China Sea that the United States has been all too willing to meddle in.
"Fortifying the islands with rocket launchers, if proved to be true, will only demonstrate Vietnam’s determination to strengthen its military deployment," said the editorial. "Vietnam has been enhancing its control of the islets and islands in Nansha in order to consolidate the beneficial status quo."
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry vehemently denied the report following the stern warning from China’s state media saying that the information about the rocket launchers was "inaccurate" although US State Department officials acknowledged that they were aware of the report and did not refute its claims.
The editorial ultimately laid the blame at the feet of the West, most prominently the United States, that incited the regional diplomatic row by encouraging the Philippines to seek a ruling from The Hague arbitrational court contesting China’s longstanding claim to most of the South China Sea territory.
"It can be expected that the West won’t easily give up using arbitration as leverage to pile pressure on China and continue to stoke more tensions in the region," opined the editorial. "The regional stakeholders should be wary of the West’s tactics."
Beijing has warned its people to be prepared to go to war over the valuable waters and islands of the South China Sea, home to one of the world’s largest natural gas and oil deposits and through which over 40% of the world’s shipborne trade travels each day. China has already deployed combat patrols to the area in an effort the head off regional efforts to seize on the arbitration court’s rulings to deprive Beijing of its historically held territory.