China's state-controlled media are warning Vietnam that Beijing will "take whatever measures necessary," including military action, to protect its interests in the South China Sea.
The Global Times newspaper, in an editorial Tuesday, issued Beijing's sternest public warning yet to Vietnam as regional tensions rise over conflicting maritime claims to territories thought to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits.
The newspaper said that failure to reach a peaceful solution to the disputed claims, which center on the Spratly island chain, will prompt Beijing to use maritime police and naval forces, if necessary, to protect Chinese claims.
The editorial comes as the Hong Kong Commercial Daily newspaper reports that Beijing has moved up the start date for sea trials of a new aircraft carrier to July 1 because of the rising tensions. The report says the carrier, a refurbished Russian vessel, will not be officially launched until October 2012. The Chinese military has not confirmed the sea trials.
In Washington, U.S. Senator John McCain said the United States must help Southeast Asian nations boost their maritime forces to counter China's "unsubstantiated" claims in the South China Sea.
McCain, speaking late Monday, said he is troubled over Beijing's increasingly assertive maritime actions, especially in waters claimed by members of the regional block known as Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN.
McCain, in remarks to the influential policy group the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Washington should assist ASEAN to develop and deploy maritime early warning radar, coastal security vessels and other basic maritime systems.