A Chinese vessel off the coast of the Spratly Islands
With attention focused on North Korea's brinkmanship on nuclear weapons and missiles, another potential crisis is brewing that is about ready to spill over into violence, with Viet Nam apparently preparing to challenge China's ownership of a string of islands thought to be the link to billions of dollars worth of oil.
In asserting its rights to the Spratly Islands also claimed by China, Vietnam has ordered six Project 636 Kilo-class submarines from Russia and has gotten permission for the purchase, in addition to other military arms Vietnam has ordered.
Russia sees the sales as strategically beneficial and Chinese critics suggest Russia is trying to gain "strategic benefit by stepping up arms sales to Southeast Asian countries. Its arms sales to Vietnam possibly have special significance for Russia, because returning to Cam Ranh Bay has been a goal long cherished by Russia."
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