TIME Innovation

Why Genocide Keeps Happening

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Here’s why genocide keeps happening.

By Jacqueline Murekatete, Simon Adams, Ellen Kennedy, Ernesto Verdeja, Charles J. Brown, Peter Galbraith in Zócalo Public Square

1. How not to fix airport screening.

By Patrick Tucker in Defense One

2. Our best tool to avoid conflict in the South China Sea is a treaty the Senate won’t ratify.

By Ankit Panda in the Diplomat

3. Teaching them to “think slow” and control their impulses is keeping teens out of trouble in Chicago.

By Andrew Flowers in FiveThirtyEight

4. How not to fix airport screening.

By Patrick Tucker in Defense One

5. Teaching inmates to tame wild horses gives both a better life.

By Melanie Ruiz in Ozy

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Philippines

Philippine President Slams Beijing for Acting like Nazis in the South China Sea

JAPAN-PHILIPPINES-DIPLOMACY
Kazuhiro Nogi — AFP/Getty Images Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in the Japanese parliament during his visit to Tokyo on June 3, 2015.

This isn't the first time he’s compared the Chinese leadership to the Third Reich

Philippine President Benigno Aquino refused to pull his punches in Tokyo on Wednesday when he compared Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea to Nazi Germany’s demands for Czech territory in the 1930s.

During a speech to business leaders in the Japanese capital, Aquino blasted the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing claim to a majority of the potentially resource-rich waters of the South China Sea.

“I’m an amateur student of history and I’m reminded of… how Germany was testing the waters and what the response was by various other European powers,” said Aquino, in an apparent reference to the Nazis’ territorial conquests in Europe during the run up to World War II, according to Agence France-Presse.

Aquino’s remarks echo similar sentiments made during an interview with the New York Times last year when he also made comparisons between Beijing’s maritime maneuvers now with Nazi Germany’s actions in the late 1930s.

At the time, Chinese state media outlets lambasted the comparison and said the president was an “amateurish politician who was ignorant both of history and reality.”

TIME South China Sea

The South China Sea’s Ticking Time Bomb

Still image from United States Navy video shows a U.S. Navy crewman aboard a surveillance aircraft viewing a computer screen purportedly showing Chinese construction on the reclaimed land of Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands
Reuters from U.S. Navy A sailor aboard a P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane points out claimed Chinese construction on Fiery Island Reef during a flight last week.

Beijing is bulldozing sand into the eyes of the world

When it comes to international relations, there are many ways to change the situation on the ground. But the Chinese are trying a new one far off their coast: they are creating new ground.

It’s part of Beijing’s plan to extend its claim to 90% of the South China Sea, and now the Chinese government is ordering the U.S. and other nations to steer clear, or at least to seek permission before visiting the neighborhood.

Sure, it’s not a whole lot of land. China has dredged about 2,000 acres of once-submerged sand to enlarge five islets in the Spratly Islands between Vietnam and the Philippines. That’s a 0.00009% increase in the country’s total land mass of 2.3 billion acres or roughly three times the size of New York City’s Central Park.

But if China continues on its present course—and the international community doesn’t back down—military confrontation seems likely. Luckily, China must reinforce its military claims to the disputed islands before such a showdown, which gives each side time for negotiation.

China said Monday that it had formally complained to Washington about its “provocative behavior” following the flight of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the region last week. The Chinese had warned the a U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance plane eight times to leave Chinese airspace as it flew near Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys. The Navy plane refused.

“We urge the U.S. to correct its error, remain rational and stop all irresponsible words and deeds,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday. “Freedom of navigation and overflight by no means mean that foreign countries’ warships and military aircraft can ignore the legitimate rights of other countries as well as the safety of aviation and navigation.”

China’s claim of extended sovereignty is upsetting its neighbors, including the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as Washington. But their denunciations will be little match for the changes coming to the South China Sea sandscape. Unlike U.S. and allied rhetoric about international law, the Chinese are literally making concrete claims in the Spratlys.

“They have manufactured land there at a staggering pace just in the last months,” U.S. Navy Admiral Harry Harris, who becomes commander of U.S. Pacific Command on Wednesday, tells Time. “They’re still going,” he adds. “They’ve also made massive construction projects on artificial islands for what are clearly, in my point of view, military purposes, including large airstrips and ports.”

So far, beyond words of warning to those getting too close to what China contends is its territory, it has only dredging gear, bulldozers and graders to enforce its claim. So the U.S. is ignoring it. But that, Pentagon officials believe, is all but certain to change. And as it changes, the stakes, and resulting tensions, will grow.

The U.S. Navy is weighing dispatching additional warships to the region to buttress its claim that these are international waters. Washington insists that contested sovereignty claims must be resolved through diplomacy and not dredging.

The Chinese digging is happening atop “submerged features that do not generate territorial claims,” David Shear, the Pentagon’s top Pacific civilian, told a Senate panel May 13. “So, it is difficult to see how Chinese behavior in particular comports with international law.”

Such legal niceties are not deterring Beijing. China is building a long airstrip and has deployed an early-warning radar on the Spratly’s Fiery Cross Reef. That will give the Chinese improved detection of what it claims are intruders into its national airspace.

U.S. Government

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pushed China’s claim of sovereignty further out into the South China Sea, where it conflicts with claims of local U.S. allies like the Philippines. The U.S. says it can fly within 12 miles of a nation’s coast, while China says its permission is needed for any flights coming within 200 miles.

The early-warning radar, U.S. officials believe, is only the first step in China’s quest to control one of the world’s most vital waterways. More than $5 trillion in goods passes through the South China Sea every year. It contains rich fishing grounds, and potentially great reserves of oil and other natural resources.

The sea is speckled with more than 30,000 islands, making conflicting territorial claims common. The Spratlys consist of some 750 islets and atolls. While spread across 164,000 square miles—the size of California—they total only 1.5 square miles.

The Chinese are likely to bolster their early-warning radar on Fiery Cross Reef with air-defense radars, U.S. Navy officials believe. Once early-warning radars detect incoming aircraft, they will hand off that information to the air-defense radars, which would allow the Chinese to track—and target—any incoming aircraft.

But air-defense radars and the blips they reveal on China’s radar screens are worthless without anything to back them up. So the air-defense radars, U.S. officials believe, ultimately will be tied into a network of air-defense missiles. They’ll be capable of shooting down any interlopers.

Once an air-defense network is in place, China will probably reinforce its claim to what it views as its growing archipelago by basing fighter aircraft there.

Shear, the Pentagon official, noted that China’s land grab is different than Russia’s now underway in Ukraine. “China is not physically seizing territory possessed by or controlled by another country,” he said. “They’re not evicting people from contested land features. They’re not nationalizing territory.”

But they are building an aircraft carrier some 1,000 miles from the Chinese mainland. No one knows better than the U.S. Navy the value of an airfield in the middle of an ocean.

Sure, it won’t be moveable. But it also won’t be sinkable.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 10

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. China is literally building islands from almost nothing to tighten control over the South China Sea.

By Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard at Reuters

2. With drones and a recycled fishing trawler, one group is rescuing migrants making the world’s deadliest border crossing.

By Brad Wieners in Bloomberg Business

3. How can India can fix its trade imbalance? Convince Hindu temples to deposit their billion-dollar gold hoards in banks.

By Meenakshi Sharma and Krishna N. Das in Voice of America

4. Bangkok’s insane malls consume as much power as entire Thai provinces.

By Adam Pasick in Quartz

5. Biometrics — fingerprints and retina scans — have changed spycraft, and now even the bad guys are using it.

By Kate Brannen in Foreign Policy

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Vietnam

The U.S. Wants Russian Warplanes to Stop Refueling in Vietnam

RUSSIA-MILITARY-EXERCISE
SERGEY VENYAVSKY—AFP/Getty Images Russian Air Force Su-24 bombers fly during a military exercise in southern Russia on February 11, 2015.

Russian warplanes refueling in Vietnam are engaging in "provocative" flights near U.S. interests in the South Pacific, Washington says

Washington has asked Vietnam to stop nuclear-capable Russian bombers from refueling at a former U.S. military base in the country, reports Reuters, citing an unnamed State Department official.

U.S. officials say the ability of Russian warplanes to refuel in Vietnam allows them to engage in “provocative” flights near American interests in the South Pacific, Reuters says.

Washington and Hanoi have been enjoying a steady uptick in relations. Last October, the U.S. reversed a decades-old arms embargo against the country, clearing the path for Washington to sell “maritime security-related defense articles” to Vietnam, as the nation continues to spar over ongoing territorial disputes with China.

However, Vietnam and Russia’s relations are rooted in more than six decades of history that commenced with Soviet support of the newly established socialist republic.

Read more at Reuters

TIME energy

China Strengthening Claim to South China Sea Oil and Gas

Cranes stand on a drilling platform construction site at the yard of Offshore Oil Engineering Co., a unit of CNOOC Ltd., in the Zhuhai Gaolan Port Economic Zone in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China on Nov. 13, 2014.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Cranes stand on a drilling platform construction site at the yard of Offshore Oil Engineering Co. in the Zhuhai Gaolan Port Economic Zone in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China on Nov. 13, 2014.

China’s most recent undertaking in the Spratly island chain is not their first – the last 18 months have already seen three reclamation projects

This post originally appeared on OilPrice.com.

Not gone and not forgotten, China is ready to solidify its claim to the South China Sea (SCS). Recent satellite imagery confirms China is conducting significant land reclamation operations in the Spratly Islands in the SCS. The SCS is an important fishing ground and is believed to hold large amounts of oil and gas. Undermining the United States’ influence in the region, China intends to play the shepherd in one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

map
BBC

The Spratly Islands along with the Paracel Islands and several maritime boundaries in the SCS have been hotly disputed for several centuries. The conflict includes Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam and has predominantly centered on historical and cultural claims. Though offering very little in the way of land or resources, the islands serve as a tangible marker. As such, parties to the conflict have been quick to occupy them.

Related: Has The PRC Decided On Its Global Strategic Posture?

China’s most recent undertaking in the Spratly island chain is not their first – the last 18 months have already seen three reclamation projects. However, at more than 3,000 meters and counting Fiery Cross Reef is their grandest venture yet and appears destined to house an airstrip and harbor, both capable of supporting military hardware. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam already operate airstrips in the Spratlys, but can only support smaller, prop-based aircraft.

As it pursues expansion, China has been hesitant to engage in multilateral negotiations and meaningful dialogue on the SCS was relegated to the sidelines at the recent APEC and ASEAN summits. Instead, China – demanding an in-house solution to the convoluted matter – is content to flex its superior political and military might to limited opposition. Reluctant to step on any toes and with its feet in multiple courts, the United States is short on political recourse, and that’s how China likes it.

Though China’s aims are long-term, control of the Spratlies and Paracels is not subsidiary to any prize that may lie beneath. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Asian security concept” calls for Asian solutions to Asian problems and seeks to limit Western influence in such “domestic” affairs. Unchecked dominance in the SCS, whether through direct force or intimidation, would be a remarkable victory in this regard.

And to the victor go the spoils, which in this case are still pretty unclear, a side effect of the conflict itself. The Energy Information Administration estimates the SCS holds approximately 11 billion barrels (bbl) of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas. That estimate jumps to as much as 22 bbl of oil and 290 Tcf of natural gas according to a U.S. Geological Survey study. Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) is perhaps the most optimistic and estimates undiscovered resources of oil and gas in the SCS total 125 bbl and 500 Tcf respectively.

Related: China’s Emissions Could Negate Global Efforts Against Climate Change

map

To date, the SCS nations have been relatively successful drilling in their near-offshore waters. Malaysia and Thailand for example, have created Joint Development Agreements to expedite production without addressing territorial disputes. For its part, China has largely played the provocateur. In 2011 and 2012, China offered a slew of oil and gas blocks to foreign bidders; the blocks – in contested waters – received no bids. More recently in May, China stationed its new deepwater drilling rig within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone setting off a series of violent protests in Vietnam.

Disregarding today’s low commodity prices, the SCS is a tough sell for Western majors unwilling to take sides. Shell and ExxonMobil have been the most active in conflict-free waters and any multilateral resolution favors their size and deepwater drilling experience.

Despite the uncertainty of the resources below the surface, there is quantifiable wealth above. Approximately 14 million barrels of crude oil and over half of the global LNG trade pass through the SCS daily. In all, $5.3 trillion in total trade moves annually through the SCS. With an aim to control no less than 80 percent of the sea, China may soon be able to impose its will on global trade patterns.

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:

TIME China

China Is Building an Island Large Enough for an Airstrip in Disputed Waters

The reclaimed land mass is situated among the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, claimed by five Southeast Asian nations

China appears to be building an island large enough to carry an airstrip in a disputed part of the South China Sea.

Satellite imagery shows a narrow land mass and harbor area taking shape over the previously submerged Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, reports IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.

This is the fourth such Chinese project in the archipelago, located between the Philippines and Vietnam, and by far the largest.

Tensions have run high in the South China Sea for decades, but especially since the recent discovery of oil-and-gas deposits in the region. Earlier this summer, China and Vietnam came at loggerheads over the Chinese deployment of an oil rig in contested waters.

If China does build an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef, it would put Beijing on a par with Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam who all have such capability in the Spratlys.

“It appears that’s what they’re working toward,” U.S. military spokesman Lieut. Colonel Jeffrey Pool told Agence France-Presse. “We urge China to stop its land-reclamation program, and engage in diplomatic initiatives to encourage all sides to restrain themselves in these sorts of activities.”

Fiery Cross Reef was previously only equipped with a concrete platform, operated by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. The platform hosts a garrison, a pier, air-defense guns, antifrogmen defenses, communications equipment and a greenhouse, and may soon be connected to the new island.

The dredgers currently at work on the reef are also creating a harbor that appears big enough to receive tankers and major surface combatant vessels.

TIME indonesia

New Indonesian President Jokowi Talks Tough With Fading Power Australia

Indonesia's new President Widodo shouts "Merdeka" or Freedom at the end of his speech, during his inauguration in Jakarta
Darren Whiteside—Reuters Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo shouts "Merdeka," meaning freedom, at the end of his speech, during his inauguration at the parliament's building in Jakarta on Oct. 20, 2014

Indonesia's newfound chest-thumping may simply be a fledgling administration's efforts to win domestic approval, but is nonetheless indicative of shifting powers in the region

Two days before his Oct. 20 inauguration, new Indonesian President Joko Widodo, gave Australia a stern warning not to test the territorial sovereignty of the world’s largest archipelago.

“We will give a warning that this is not acceptable,” Jokowi, as he is widely known, told Fairfax Media in reference to half a dozen incursions into Indonesian waters last year by Australian navy ships turning back boats full of predominantly Middle Eastern asylum seekers. “We have international law, you must respect international law.”

Bolstering Jokowi’s message, Indonesia’s new Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi — the first ever female in the role — confirmed on Wednesday a departure from former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s principle of “thousand friends, zero enemies” to national interests first.

“To uphold our political sovereignty, what we must do is preserve the sovereignty of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia,” Retno said at her first press conference. “We’ll do this firmly and clearly.”

The interception one day earlier of a Singaporean passenger aircraft over a well-traveled flight path that cuts through Indonesian airspace may be indicative of Jakarta’s new hard-line stance. Indonesian fighter jets forced the aircraft to land and pay a $4,900 fine — despite protestation from the Singaporean owner, ST Aerospace, that it had been using the route for a number of years without the need for prior clearance from Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

However, these messages must be read within the context of Indonesia’s time-honored political melodrama, where tough talk against meddling foreign powers is par for the course. It’s also an easy and predictable way for new administration to score political points on the home front. “I think Jokowi’s warning to Australia was made for domestic consumption rather that advocating a nationalistic tone in foreign policy,” says Philips Vermonte, head of international relations at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

Indeed, Jokowi’s apparent double standards when dealing with Chinese incursions in the fish- and gas-rich waters of the Natuna Islands, on the northwest coast of Indonesian Borneo, seems to demonstrate diplomatic nuance rather than a new era of nationalistic fervor.

As recently as March 2013, armed Chinese ships bullied Indonesian patrol boats into releasing Chinese fisherman caught trawling illegally near Natuna. China has also included parts of the waters around Natuna within its so-called nine-dash line — its vague southern maritime boundary, adding Indonesia to the long list of countries it’s dueling with over aggressive claims to some 90% of the South China Sea.

In April, Indonesia’s armed-forces chief General Moeldoko penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal promising to strengthen Indonesian forces on Natuna and prepare fighter jets to meet “any eventuality.”

But two months later, during a presidential-election debate in June, Jokowi claimed Indonesia had no beef with China. In later interviews he adroitly turned the burning strategic problem with China on its head, suggesting Indonesia could serve as an “honest broker” vis-a-vis the Middle Kingdom’s disputes with other countries in the South China Sea.

This should not, however, be understood to mean the new Indonesian administration will be pushovers. Its soft stance on overlapping territorial claims with China is obviously linked to the fact that China is Indonesia’s second largest export trading partner. Australia, meanwhile, barely makes the top 10.

The lesson, it seems, more concerns shifting regional power than newfound Indonesian belligerence. “Australia needs to understand that Indonesia’s place in the world is growing, while it is not,”
 adds Professor Tim Lindsey, director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the Melbourne Law School. By current estimates, he adds, Indonesia will have world’s seventh largest economy in around a decade and the fifth largest by 2050. “Australia’s current policies of turning back the boats doesn’t seem to factor in any of that at all,” says Lindsey.

“I think Australia would be advised to take [Jokowi’s latest about naval incursions] warning very seriously, and that it would be unwise to look at it in narrow terms by saying, ‘Their navy is very small so it’s not a valid threat,’” opines Antje Missbach, a research fellow at Monash University’s School of Social Sciences in Melbourne. “There are many ways Indonesia could make a point without involving its navy.”

Moreover, she adds, “Look what happened last time Australia offended them,” referring to when Indonesia recalled its ambassador to Australia for six months following revelations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden that Australia had spied on Yudhoyono and his wife.

Speaking to TIME, Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says, “It is not the government’s policy to incur Indonesia’s waters” and blames past incursions on the opposition government it replaced following the September 2013 general elections. “[We’re] working closely with the new government of Indonesia on people-smuggling issues and we are optimistic about initial responses,” Morrison says.

Optimism is one thing; keeping out of your neighbor’s backyard is another altogether.

— With reporting by Yenni Kwok

Read next: Australia’s Top ISIS Militant Killed: Sources

TIME Vietnam

Risking China’s Ire, India Signs Defense and Oil Deals With Vietnam

Vietnam's PM Dung waves next to his Indian counterpart Modi at the forecourt of India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi
Adnan Abidi—Reuters Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung waves next to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during Dung's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's presidential palace in New Delhi on Oct. 28, 2014

The agreements were signed during a visit to India by the Vietnamese Prime Minister

On Tuesday, India pledged to supply naval vessels to Vietnam and also secured oil exploration rights from Hanoi in parts of the contentious South China Sea, in moves that promise to ruffle a few feathers in Beijing.

The announcement came during Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s two-day visit to India, during which his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi pledged to “quickly operationalize” the $100 million line of credit established during Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Hanoi in September.

Along with an expedited sale of four offshore patrol ships, India will also take up enhanced training programs for the Vietnamese military, according to the Economic Times.

The agreements come at a time when the Vietnam, along with several other Southeast Asian nations, is locked in territorial disputes with Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“Everybody’s worried about what China’s going to do next,” says A.B. Mahapatra, director of New Delhi–based think tank the Centre for Asian and Strategic Studies–India. “That is a common concern between [India and Vietnam] now, because all through history they never thought that they should expand their trade relationship or their defense relationship.”

Hong Lei, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, reasserted Beijing’s claim to the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea, but said it would not object to any joint exploration by India and Vietnam in undisputed waters.

“But if such cooperation harms China’s sovereignty and interests, we will resolutely oppose it,” he said.

Both Vietnam and India are growing closer to China economically, and a recent visit to New Delhi by Chinese President Xi Jinping yielded agreements worth billions of dollars.

But Mahapatra points out that neither Indian nor Vietnamese economic dependence on China precludes territorial conflict, and assumptions that Beijing would not destabilize a region in which it has economic interests have proved wrong time and again.

“[India and Vietnam] realize that if they don’t encounter China now, they will lose [the territory] forever,” he says.

TIME Vietnam

Top Vietnamese Minister Says It’s Time for the U.S. to Drop the Arms Embargo

China suggests six steps to boost ASEAN ties
Peng Huan—Imaginechina Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the 11th China-ASEAN Expo and the 11th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Nanning, China, on Sept.16, 2014

Washington looks like it might agree

Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has said that Hanoi would welcome the U.S. dropping a decades-old arms embargo against his country.

“Nearly 20 years ago, we normalized the relations with the United States and in 2013 we set up the comprehensive partnership with the United States,” he said during a talk at the Asia Society in New York City on Wednesday. “So the relation is normal and the ban on [selling] lethal weapons to Vietnam is abnormal.”

Minh’s pronouncement came a day after Reuters published a story citing an unidentified American official and two senior executives in the U.S. weapons industry who stated that Washington was on the verge of lifting the 30-year-old ban targeting its erstwhile enemy.

The assessment follows similar comments made earlier in the summer by Ted Osius, who is currently awaiting confirmation of his appointment as the next U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. During a hearing with a Senate panel in June, the veteran diplomat said it might be “time to begin exploring the possibility of lifting the ban.”

“I think dropping of the embargo would represent a significant change in the relationship in a variety of important respects,” says Jonathan London, a professor and Vietnamese scholar at Hong Kong’s City University, and the author of Politics in Contemporary Vietnam: Party, State, and Authority Relations.

“Not only would Vietnam be able to acquire arms and equipment, which it sorely needs particularly with respect to maritime capabilities, but it would also imply opportunities to deepen military-to-military ties between the countries and I think arguably that’s at least as significant as the ability to acquire arms.”

The warming of ties between Hanoi and Washington follows an exceptionally rocky period in relations between Vietnam and Beijing.

In May, Vietnam’s smoldering distrust of its northern neighbor erupted after a billion-dollar drilling platform belonging to a Chinese state-owned company dropped anchor in the middle of fiercely contested waters near the disputed Paracel archipelago in the South China Sea.

The presence of the drilling unit set off riots across Vietnam and led to months of maritime clashes as Vietnamese cutters tangled with Chinese coast guard vessels, until the rig was withdrawn from the contentious site in July.

Despite increased tensions with Beijing, experts say Vietnam’s leadership remains pragmatic and unlikely to abruptly give up its relationship with China for the sake of closer ties with Washington.

“Vietnam is a long way from joining any alliance with the U.S. — it doesn’t even participate in the CARAT [Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training] naval cooperation exercises with the U.S. that almost every other ASEAN country does,” Bill Hayton, author of The South China Sea: The Struggle for the Power in Asia, tells TIME.

“However, it is hedging its bets and warning China to moderate its actions in the South China Sea, particularly.”

During the question-and-answer session at the Asia Society, Foreign Minister Minh brushed off the suggestion by the society’s moderator that the potential sale of U.S. hardware to Vietnam would irritate Beijing.

“If we do not buy weapons from the United States, we will still buy weapons from other countries,” said Minh.

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