In 1974, China had forces in the northeastern Paracels. South Vietnam discovered Chinese forces had occupied an island in the Vietnam-claimed southwestern Paracels. When South Vietnam's military challenged the advance, Chinese forces quickly defeated Saigon's weaker naval forces and garrison units. South Vietnam no longer exists. North Vietnam's alliance with China is also kaput. Hanoi has never relinquished sovereign Vietnamese claims to the Paracels and the Spratlys, another disputed island group.
China and Vietnam fought a bitter border war in 1979. The Vietnamese dominated the land battles, and the Chinese suffered heavy casualties. Vietnam, however, lacked the air and naval assets to contest the Paracels.
Vietnam still lacks the air and naval assets, but it is challenging China, anyway. Deploying a state-owned billion-dollar drilling ship is a calculated act. When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called it "provocative," he understated the case. It's a fair bet that Crimea's annexation was more than a minor factor in Hanoi's decision to react vigorously.
Conflicting sovereign claims roil the South China Sea. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Taiwan all claim a slice. China, however, lays claim to 90 percent of the area and backs its claim with military forays and bullyboy diplomacy. In 2012, ignoring Philippine objections, China occupied the Scarborough Shoal. This year -- March 9, as Russia surrounded Ukrainian garrisons in Crimea -- Chinese forces blocked the resupply of a Filipino Marine contingent protecting an islet in the Spratlys.
The European Union, NATO and the U.N.'s collective failure to quickly penalize and stigmatize Russia's annexation of Crimea adds to Asian fears that China may decide the time is ripe to resolve territorial disputes by force of arms and then use its economic muscle and U.N. veto to parry international condemnation.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.