A ship of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 130 miles off shore of Vietnam, May 2014.
Nguyen Minh / REUTERS

In a sign of escalating tensions in Southeast Asia, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi just canceled a bilateral meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Pham Binh Minh. Since clashing in a brief war in 1979 and a naval battle in 1988, Vietnam has drawn China’s ire with some creative (and risky) diplomacy intended to counter Beijing’s acts of unilateral dominance in the South China Sea.

Last month, Hanoi agreed to back off of a major oil exploration venture in the South China Sea at Beijing’s behest. General Fan Changlong, deputy chair of China’s Central Military Commission, applied some heavy-handed pressure, including paying a visit to Madrid to raise Beijing’s concerns over Spanish corporation Repsol’s involvement in the deal despite Respol’s having already invested $300 million in the project. General Fan also traveled to Hanoi for an annual border exchange, during which time he directly requested that Vietnam

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