Vietnam and the Philippines announced recently that they were united in opposing Chinese efforts to claim control over all the small islands in the South China Sea. Both nations have had problems with China interfering with oil and gas exploration. For example, last May Vietnam accused China of ordering several of its marine surveillance ships to harass a Vietnamese oil exploration ship in the disputed Spratly islands. The Chinese ships cut cables let out by the Vietnamese ship, then actually got close enough to bump into the oil exploration vessel. The damage was light, but the message was unmistakable. Around the same time, China interfered with Philippines sponsored oil exploration in the Spratly Islands. This exploration work is being done 230 kilometers off the coast of the Philippine’s Palawan Island, which is well within the internationally recognized “economic zone” that extends 371 kilometers from the coast. China denied such interference. China admitted that it has research ships in the area. All this is part of an effort by China to get the other Spratly claimants (Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan) to back off, but that has not worked so far. China, however, appears determined to have its way.