Saturday, May 24, 2014

Vietnamese Woman Self-Immolates In Anti-China Protest May 24 , 2014 - has Vietnam begun to lose control over these anti- China protests ?

Vietnamese Woman Self-Immolates In Anti-China Protest

Tyler Durden's picture





 
As the anti-China protests in Vietnam - following China's imposition of an oil-rig in disputed territorial waters - RFA reports that a vietnamese woman belonging to an outlawed Buddhist movement died Friday after setting herself on fire in protest against China's actions. The woman, 67-year-old Le Thi Tuyet Mai, surrounded herself with seven banners denouncing Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea before dousing herself in gasoline and setting it alight early Friday morning in front of the Reunification Palace in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. As the following clip shows, police put out the blaze within three minutes but she succumbed to her burns. With China showing no signs of backing down, one of Mai's banners perhaps warrants most attention for the future, "I offer my body as a torch to light the path of all patriots."
The 67-year-old...

A Vietnamese woman belonging to an outlawed Buddhist movement died Friday after setting herself on fire in protest against China's actions in a territorial dispute with Vietnam, according to activists and local media.

The woman, 67-year-old Le Thi Tuyet Mai, surrounded herself with seven banners denouncing Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea before dousing herself in gasoline and setting it alight early Friday morning in front of the Reunification Palace in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. 

Police told Vietnamese media they put out the blaze within three minutes but she succumbed to her burns.

The burning protest follows a clampdown on demonstrations against China's May 1 deployment of a giant oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam.

...

The banners found next to her body displayed handwritten slogans expressing opposition to Chinese incursions into Vietnamese waters and support for the UBCV patriarch Thich Quang Do’s stance on the issue, the IBIB said.

Last week, the IBIB issued a statement saying Do was “disturbed” by China’s deployment of the  oil rig off the coast of central Vietnam and wanted the Vietnamese government and the ruling Communist Party “to embark on a process of democratization to enable its citizens to participate equally in the defense of their homeland.”

“I offer my body as a torch to light the path of all patriots,” one of the banners displayed by Mai read, according to the group.  Others included - "Demand unity to smash the Chinese invasion plot" and "Support Vietnamese coast guards and fishermen."
But after initially supporting protests, the government is backing away...
China’s deployment of the oil rig in contested waters near the Paracel Islands has triggered fury in Vietnam.

Hanoi had initially lauded "patriotic" displays by its citizens and allowed protests by thousands in a rare move that amplified state anger against Beijing.

But it backpedalled after the protests turned violent last week, with rioters targeting factories in industrial parks around the country.

Some dissidents and activists who took part in peaceful protests reported they were brutally beaten and harassed by police.
But as The Diplomat notes, Vietnam is stepping up cooperation with other claimants in the South China Sea,
It’s been over two weeks since China announced the placement of an oil rig in the South China Sea, 120 nautical miles from Vietnam’s coast and 17 nautical miles from the nearest Paracel Island.Beijing and Hanoi have been locked in a confrontation ever since, with tensions fromnaval clashes spilling over into deadly anti-China riots near Ho Chi Minh City. As neither shows signs of backing down, Vietnam is signaling that it is increasingly interested in tightening coordination with other claimants in the South China Sea disputes, including the Philippines and Malaysia.

Even while China was hosting a massive gathering of international leaders, and presenting its own vision for Asian security, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was on a visit to Manila to meet with Philippine President Benigno Aquino. Given the two countries’ heated disputes with China over islands and features in the South China Sea, Beijing’s conduct (and how to respond) was a major topic of discussion. Inremarks at a joint press briefing with Aquino, Dung said the two leaders “shared the deep concerns over the current extremely dangerous situation caused by China’s many actions that violate the international law, the UNCLOS 1982, and seriously infringe upon the waters of coastal countries.” Dung added that “Viet Nam and the Philippines are determined to oppose China’s violations.” He also called for other countries and the international community at large “to continue strongly demanding China to immediately end its above-said violations.”

Both the tone and the setting of these remarks were notable. It was harshly critical of China, and delivered while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippine President.Brought together by their opposition to China’s territorial claims, Hanoi and Manila are seeking to deepen their own partnership. In addition to pledging to expand bilateral dialogues and communication mechanisms, the two sides also promised to “consult and support each other at regional cooperation mechanisms on defense and security such as the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM), the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).” Notably, at many ASEAN meetings, Vietnam and the Philippines are the strongest proponents of unified action on the South China Sea issue.

Vietnam is also considering hosting a meeting with Philippine and Malaysian officials later in May, Reutersreports. Similar meetings were held in February and March to discuss Manila’s arbitration case against China. The motive behind the talks are clear, according to one senior Malaysian diplomat: China’s recent actions have “brought us together.” Malaysia has been far more quite about its territorial disputes with China than Vietnam or the Philippines, but there are signs Kuala Lumpur may be considering a more robust response.

Against the backdrop of nascent cooperation between Hanoi, Manila, and Kuala Lumpur, there are signs that Vietnam is considering following in the Philippines’ footsteps by filing legal suit against China’s territorial claims. In a press conference in Manila, Prime Minister Dung ruled out a “military solution” to the current oil rig standoff, but he was equally resolute that Vietnam would not back down. “Viet Nam is considering various defense options, including legal actions in accordance with the international law,” Dung said.

In a separate interview,Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam told Reuters that Vietnam was following Manila’s arbitration case “very closely.” Vietnam “would like to use all measures provided by international law to protect our legitimate interests,” he said. Reuters reported that Beijing pressured Hanoi not to join the Philippine case earlier this year. Now, with ties rapidly fraying, Vietnam might be ready to defy China by filing its own arbitration case.

There’s been little progress on dealing with the South China Sea disputes through ASEAN as a whole, as many ASEAN members have no disputes with China and thus have little reason to risk Beijing’s ire through firm action. Now it seems that those ASEAN states with disputes against China are considering forming a smaller coalition to deal with Beijing’s territorial claims.

In addition to seeking to form a united front with other regional partners, Vietnam might also accelerate the process of deepening ties with the U.S.While in his press conference Dung ruled out the possibility of Vietnam joining a military alliance, he also repeated his call for other countries and the international community to “continue expressing strong protests” against China’s actions. Likewise, the Communist Party of Vietnam emphasized that the Foreign Ministry should use diplomacy and international support as a means of protecting Vietnam’s sovereignty. Accordingly Hanoi will likely seek to increase ties with the U.S., as well as with Russia and India.

For its part, the U.S. has expressed a hope of increasing engagement with Vietnam in the wake of the China-Vietnam clashes. Aspokesman for the U.S. Seventh Fleet told Reutersthat Washington “would welcome increased port visits with Vietnam.”





Asia Times....


Anti-China mobs torch factories in Vietnam
By Radio Free Asia 

Anti-Chinese mobs torched and ransacked foreign-owned factories in Vietnam to express anger over the deployment of a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea, bringing production to a standstill, workers and factory owners said. 

Police said they had detained 700 people since anti-China protests which began at the weekend turned violent as more than 20,000 people attacked Chinese and other foreign factories in


industrial parks in the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial capital. 

The violence was directed at Chinese-owned factories, but companies from Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore were also affected, with many closing their doors and stopping operations. 

Police said workers burned at least 15 factories while hundreds more were vandalized, according to local reports, following anti-China street demonstrations in major cities on Saturday and Sunday over the giant oil rig deployed in waters claimed by both Beijing and Hanoi. 

Military vehicles were dispatched to quell rioting in Ho Chi Minh City and neighboring Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces in the early hours of Wednesday morning, sources told RFA's Vietnamese Service. 

Armored vehicles were sent to guard the Chinese consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, amid stern statements of concern from Beijing as well other countries with factories affected by the violence. 

Workers told RFA police and other instigators had led workers in the rioting, while others said workers had joined the demonstrations spontaneously. 

Factories 'destroyed'
Some factories put up signs saying they were not Chinese-owed in attempts to protect their facilities from rioters angry over Beijing's actions in the maritime territorial dispute, workers said. 

"Factories that have Chinese characters outside have been destroyed," said Huynh Kim Bau, owner of a factory in Binh Duong. 

"The rioters destroyed things and set fire to things that they suspected belonged to Chinese, anything with Chinese words on it. Even police and army troops couldn't do anything about it because there were too many people," he said. 

Some factories put up signs backing Vietnam's claim to disputed islands, he said. 

"Factories have stopped operation, and outside there are signs saying, 'The Paracels and Spratlys belong to Vietnam,' and 'Long Live Vietnam.'" 

State media initially reported robustly on the protests, which experts have said authorities may have allowed to proceed in a calculated move to voice displeasure with Beijing. 

But reports posted earlier in the week were taken down after the protests turned violent, sending local residents to social media for information about the disputes. 

Police standing by
Workers reported colleagues being urged to join the violence and police standing by as workers rioted. 

"This was not done by the workers. It was instigated by a group of people who threatened the workers, so they joined the protest," Le Thi An, a worker at a Chinese-owned company in Binh Duong said. 

"The group had scores of people, and they went around and damaged things." 

"I saw traffic police on the streets but they did not stop them, and I was surprised," she said. 

Another worker said police had instructed his colleagues to join the rioting and had observed the protesters without stopping them. 

"Some women workers said ... that in the morning they were working when police came and told them to stop work and join the protest. ... So all the workers left," said the worker, Nguyen Dang. 

"They said those people were wearing police uniforms. I saw police following behind the protesters and they were very calm." 

Hundreds of arrests
Police in Binh Duong Province have arrested 599 people for inciting riots and looting, and police in Dong Nai have arrested 100, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported. 

According to Binh Duong police, as of Wednesday afternoon, the premises of more than 460 local companies had been wrecked and vandalized, and as many as 15 factories had their warehouses set ablaze, the paper said. 

The violence has prompted Beijing and its embassy in Hanoi to issue warnings to Chinese citizens in Vietnam. 

The Chinese Embassy's website said it saw no end to the attacks and urged Chinese to take precautions, while the Hong Kong government issued an amber travel warning for Vietnam. 

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying expressed concern over the rioting at a daily press briefing on Wednesday, saying Beijing had made representations to Vietnam and enacted emergency mechanisms to provide security to Chinese companies. 

"We urge Vietnam to stop all provocative actions, come to their senses, and stop all acts intended to create disturbances," she said, according to reports. 

Singapore called in Vietnam's ambassador to the country to voice concerns over the protests, while Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou told a national security conference that the government would send aircraft to evacuate its nationals if the situation worsened. 

South China Sea tensions
In Washington, White House Spokesman Jay Carey said the dispute in the South China Sea over the oil rig needs to be resolved through dialogue, not intimidation. 

Beijing's deployment of the rig on May 1 near the Paracel Islands some 220 kilometers off of Vietnam's coast saw patrol vessels from the two countries converging in the disputed area, sending tensions spiraling. 

The ships have skirmished repeatedly in recent days, causing collisions and the use of water cannon. 

Beijing's decision to set up the rig is seen as one of its boldest moves yet in a bid to secure its claims in the South China Sea, which is known in Vietnam as the East Sea. 

Dozens of anti-China rallies have been held in Vietnam since 2007 against perceived aggression by Beijing in the waters. 

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei. 


and....


Bell tolls for US pivot in South China Sea
By Peter Lee 

In discussing the issue of why the People's Republic of China plunked down the drilling rig HYSY981 more than 100 kilometers off the Vietnamese coast and near the China-controlled Paracels, there seems to be a certain amount of cognitive dissonance plaguing the Western commentariat. 

Apropos the HYSY981 affair, The Asia Society hosted a roundtable on its website composed of the luminaries Daniel Kliman, Ely Ratner, Orville Schell, Susan Shirk, and Carl Thayer. Almost all of them ignored the elephant in the room - the US pivot to Asia. 

Only Carl Thayer, in my opinion, gets it right in discussing the



third of his three possibilities for the PRC's provocation:
The third interpretation stresses the geo-political motivations behind China's actions. The deployment of the CNOOC mega rig was a pre-planned response to President Barack Obama's recent visit to East Asia. China was angered by Obama's support for both Japan and the Philippines in their territorial disputes with Beijing. Therefore China manufactured the oil rig crisis to demonstrate to regional states that the United States was a "paper tiger" and there was a gap between Obama's rhetoric and ability to act.

The third interpretation has plausibility. China can make its point and then withdraw the oil rig once it has completed its mission in mid-August. But this interpretation begs the question why Vietnam was the focus for this crisis and why China acted on the eve of the summit meeting of the heads of government/state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. [1]
I would go a step further than Mr Thayer, and opine that China's South China Sea escapade is more than a one-off tantrum. It represents a "sea change" in the PRC's strategy for dealing with the pivot to Asia. 

For US-China relations, that means: No G2. That's been clear since Hillary Clinton 86'ed the concept as secretary of state. 

Little more than symbolic lip service to the "new great power" relationship founded on the comforting myth of the World War II victors' dispensation with the heirs to Franklin D Roosevelt and Chiang Kai-shek calling the Asian shots, a fantasy which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working assiduously to undermine and supersede. 

And, most importantly, from the Chinese point of view, no pivot. 

In other words, the PRC intends to ignore the idea that its actions in its near-beyond are to be deterred by the alarm and opposition of the US and the Asian democracies, thereby challenging the basic assumption of the pivot: that China's defiance of the pivot triggers a virtuous cycle of escalation and anxiety, causing smaller Asian countries to cleave to the United States more closely, thereby enhancing US influence and inhibiting the PRC's freedom of motion. 

I would suggest that, to answer Mr Thayer's rhetorical question, the reason that the PRC decided to beat up on Vietnam just before the ASEAN summit - when, by pivot logic the PRC should be loath to antagonize its nervous regional interlocutors and increase the risk of united, anti-PRC action on behalf of Vietnam and the Philippines by the various spooked ASEAN nations - the Chinese leadership did it because they could, and because they wanted to. 

Quite simply, I think, the PRC wanted to make a statement that it would not be deterred. 

Surprisingly, ASEAN went along and declined to administer a serious flaming to the PRC, despite the vociferous complaints of Vietnam and the Philippines concerning the rather blatant provocations by the PRC. A communique on the issue merely asked for "all sides" to show restraint. Wonder how much bilateral stroking and arm-twisting that took. 

The fact that the PRC has taken a major action to repudiate the basic premise of the pivot - that a US-led security alliance can deter unilateral and provocative PRC behavior and put an end to the endless exercise of salami-slicing and cabbage-wrapping in its maritime adventures - is, in my opinion, a pretty big deal. 

The pivot, after all, is welcomed because it assumes that the PRC, whose military is no match for the US or even, probably, Japan, can be deterred with relatively low risk and at low cost. 

If the PRC is going to ignore the consequences of challenging the US pivot and assume, rather logically, that the US is not going to light off a war with China over the South China Sea, those costs and risks increase. Worst case, President Obama has to fall back on Nixon's "madman" doctrine, which is to say the United States is prepared to inflict and endure (at least through its unlucky allies) losses disproportionate to the interests at stake in order to maintain credibility of the deterrent. 

The PRC's willingness to challenge, provoke, and escalate is a major issue for the pivot. However, the clang of cognitive dissonance still seems to be faint and ignorable for the public US Asian affairs commentariat, at least as long as the designated victim is Vietnam, if the Asia Society round table is an indicator. 

Ely Ratner and Susan Shirk, in particular, take the tack that theHYSY981 is simply a big, stupid blunder by the big, stupid PRC. 

First, Ely Ratner:
[T]he Chinese Communist Party appears increasingly unable to reconcile predominant political and economic goals of securing its sovereignty aims while sustaining a peaceful regional security environment ... we've seen China engage in bearish and clumsy actions that have raised concerns not just in Tokyo and Manila, but also Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and now Hanoi. At the end of the day, this means that domestic bureaucratic and political imperatives are overcoming the logic of strategy in Beijing, a dangerous development for outsiders hoping that relative costs and benefits (not politics and nationalism) will shape China's decision-making on its territorial disputes ... These ... troubling elements paint the picture of a country whose foreign policy is untethered from strategic logic and increasingly engaging in preemptive revisionism.
And Susan Shirk:
The diplomats in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, especially Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who crafted China's very successful strategy to reassure Asian countries about China's friendly intentions during 1996-2009 and is trying to revive the strategy now under Xi Jinping, must be well aware that such high-profile assertions of sovereignty will provoke a backlash among China's worried neighbors. When ASEAN meets next week, the Southeast Asian countries will certainly be pointing fingers at China, as Taylor Fravel predicts in his very informative Q & A with The New York Times. But the Foreign Ministry's voice no longer dominates the foreign policy process.

What China's actions reflect, as Ely Ratner says, is the very dangerous possibility that Chinese security policy has become "untethered from strategic logic." In other words, domestic bureaucratic interest groups and nationalist public opinion are driving toward over-expansion of sovereignty claims in a manner that could actually harm China's overall national security interests.
I am no fan of the "crazy stupid psycho panda" school when it comes to analyzing PRC moves that the US finds disturbing. Nevertheless, the CSPP school -the California School of Professional Psychology - is a remarkably durable construct in US Asia-wonk circles, perhaps in direct proportion in faith in the genius of the pivot and the idea that it is the best and essential tool for dealing with the PRC. 

My general take is that the United States is the only power with the wealth, military capability, and political and geographic impunity to act really stupidly and irrationally, a characteristic, I might say, is on full display as the Obama administration feeds Ukraine into the maw of anarchy in order to punish Russia for the annexation of Crimea (and perhaps distract attention from the spectacular, compounded clusterf*ck that is the US program for building a pro-Western regime in Kiev). 


Smaller powers, regional powers, and candidate superpowers in complicated neighborhoods, like the PRC, have to plan their moves a little more carefully. 

And Beijing has been thinking. 

China's Defense Minister, Chang Wentian, drew a line during his

 


joint press conference with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in early April:
China-US relations are by no means the relations between China - between the US and the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, nor is it a relation of coercion and anti-coercion. With the latest development in China, it can never be contained.
Fast forward to the ruckus surrounding the HYSY981 :
MOFA spokersperson's statement on May 12:
Q: First, Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) calls for speeded-up negotiations with China on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). What is China's response to that? Second, some Western media believed that China's drilling activities in the waters off Xisha [Paracel] Islands are in response to the US's pivot to Asia and President Obama's recent visit to Asia. What is China's comment?

A: On your first question, the issue of South China Sea is not one between China and ASEAN. There is consensus between China and ASEAN countries on jointly safeguarding peace and stability in South China Sea. China stands with ASEAN countries to continue to work for a full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and steadily move forward the negotiation process of COC.
(As to the second question, the spokesperson asserted that the drilling rig operation was routine and had nothing to do with the pivot, which I choose to interpret as a backhanded statement that the pivot has nothing to do with the South China Sea.) 

And MOFA on May 13:
Q: The US Secretary of State John Kerry held a phone conversation with Foreign Minister Wang Yi today. The US side asked China to stop taking provocative actions. What is China's response to that?

A: You mentioned the word "provocative". It is true that provocative actions have been seen in the South China Sea recently. But they are not taken by China. It is nothing but the wrong words and actions made by the US side on maritime issues that have emboldened some countries to take provocative actions. We would like the US side to think hard on this: if they really want the Pacific region to be pacific, what kind of role should they play? What actions should they take to truly contribute to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region?

... Wang Yi ... urged the US to treat these issues with objectivity and fairness, live up to its commitment, watch its words and actions, and avoid emboldening relevant parties' provocative actions. 
(Emphasis added.)
I am not torturing prose here to interpret these remarks as "China cannot be contained" (Chang actually said that), and that the declaration that the PRC will work together with ASEAN to "jointly safeguard peace and stability" is meant to convey that the United States has no legitimate front-line interests in the South China Sea and the main job of the United States is to "watch its words and actions" to avoid exacerbating the problems. 

In other words, the PRC is working to maneuver the South China Sea issues away from the rather canard-esque "freedom of navigation" issue that Hillary Clinton used to claim a compelling US interest in the South China Sea disputes in 2010. 

Instead, the drilling rig episode highlights the fact that the real issues in the South China Sea are the local matters of territory, sovereignty, fisheries, hydrocarbon reserves and delineation of exclusive economic zones, or EEZ (Vietnam cannot claim an uncontested EEZ at the site of the HYSY981; beyond the notorious Chinese cow-tongue claim, aka the Nine-Dash Line with which it delineates its claims to the South China Sea, the rig is too close to the Paracels - about 17 kilometers from the nearest island - which have their own, as yet undefined EEZ potential). 

This framing is more factual and practical, and more problematic for the United States and the pivot in the South China Sea. 

The US doesn't take positions of sovereignty issues concerning the miserable rocks of the South China Sea and has had to hang its hat on "no forcible change of the status quo" as American policy. That might work for the Senkakus in the East China Sea, but offers limited consolation for Vietnam in its hopes of recovering the Paracels, or for the Philippines in its travails over the Scarborough Shoal. 

As for the headaches of EEZ delineation occasioned by the ridiculous fruit salad of sovereignty claims and disputes in the South China Sea, the US - which has been unable to ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea even as it announces its adherence to its provisions - has even less ability to complain. 

So the PRC is now claiming a pretty big chunk of salami - declaring that it doesn't recognize a US role in the South China Sea. 

As to why the PRC is making this provocative move, I've argued before that it is moving preemptively, in response to President Obama's pivot and also expecting an extremely unfriendly constellation of forces in Asia once Hillary Clinton becomes president. [2] 

So I am inclined to believe that Xi Jinping has decided it's time to challenge the pivot, carefully and via Vietnam, but openly. 

In terms of proximate causes, I wonder if it was a smart move to send President Obama to Asia for a trip explicitly and exclusively designed to promote the pivot, lobby for Japanese collective self defense, conclude a new military agreement with the Philippines, leave the PRC off his itinerary, and expect the PRC to be mollified by visits from Michelle Obama and Chuck Hagel? 

The PRC apparently didn't think so, judging from Chang's pugnacious remarks at the joint news conference with Hagel. In addition to announcing his rejection of any China-containment strategy, Chang devoted much of his time to complaining about the perceived transgressions of US allies the Philippines and Japan. 

Also, I think Ukraine is a factor. While demonstrating US fecklessness as a security partner for its allies, it also served as an object lesson in the US willingness to escalate recklessly when it sees a chance to stick it to a designated adversary. 

The fact that the United States has seen fit to drive Vladimir Putin into Xi Jinping's arms just as the PRC was looking at an extremely tough decade of isolation and confrontation with the US and its Asian neighbors will, I am sure, provide ample grist for future students of international relations. 

For now, I find it rather mystifying that the PRC challenge to the pivot is ignored in the popular, pundit-driven press. 

Maybe it's me. But maybe there's some kind of code of omerta, an agreement that this issue won't be bruited about until the US government has settled on a suitable public riposte. I don't think the US government is oblivious. 

Consider this report in Stars & Stripes:
A USS Blue Ridge-embarked helicopter photographed two Chinese navy ships May 5 near the site of a heavily contested shoal that has sparked a months-long standoff between China and the Philippines in 2012.

The Navy's photo release of two Chinese Navy ships near Scarborough Shoal sparked some online news outlets to label the encounter a confrontation, which 7th Fleet officials disputed Friday. [3]
The USS Blue Ridge is the command and control flagship that runs things for the US Seventh Fleet. The two Chinese ships - People's Liberation Army Navy ships, not the usual maritime patrol vessels that harass the Philippines - were presumably in the area to monitor a joint Philippine-US military exercise. And I presume that the USS Blue Ridge sailed past the Scarborough Shoal in order to yank the PRC's chain, and not just because that was the quickest way to Thailand, which the US Navy claimed as the reason for the approach. 

This represents something of an escalation of the US presence in the area of the Philippines vis a vis the PRC, especially compared with the US government's discrete behind the scenes assistance to the Philippine government's resupply mission (and media jamboree) to the derelict freighter on the Second Thomas Shoal. (See Obama runs China's pivot gauntlet, Asia Times Online, April 22, 2014.) 

By sailing the Blue Ridge around down there and flying helicopters to take a gander at the Chinese warships, I think that the US wanted to put the PRC on notice that dispatching theHYSY981 to Philippine waters will be a more complicated and fraught undertaking than the Vietnam exercise. 

Whether the PRC finds it expedient to heed that warning is something we may find out about in the next few months. 

Notes:
1. The China-Vietnam Standoff: How Will It End?, ChinaFile, May 9, 2014.
2. Maybe the End of the American Century Starts Here, China Matters, April, 2014.
3. Blue Ridge encounters Chinese ships near disputed isle, Stars and Stripes, May 9, 2014.