The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
Vietnam hopes weapons from an old enemy can counter an even older one
One morning last June, the people of Vietnam woke up to someone else's oil rig in their backyard. The 30,000-ton Haiyang Shiyou-981, owned by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, was parked 70 miles inside waters controlled by Vietnam.
The resulting standoff at sea, in which one Vietnamese fishing boat was sunk, has driven Vietnam to seek assistance from an unlikely source. Vietnam has requested its old enemy, the United States, sell it weapons to counter an even older enemy, China.
Vietnam and China have shared a mutual border for more than 2,000 years. Those have not exactly been happy years for Vietnam, as it has often ended up a colony or vassal state of its larger neighbor. Vietnam has suffered political, economic, and cultural imperialism and in the course of their shared history, Vietnam has taken up arms against China several times to assert its independence.
This history has made Vietnam understandably wary of China and its intentions. Although Vietnam has benefited economically from China's spectacular economic growth, it has been alarmed at the steady expansion of Chinese military power. Vietnamese defense spending has quadrupled since 2004, in direct response to China's own growing defense budget.