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WASHINGTON – Just as it has demanded of the United States, China now is putting pressure on Russia to remove its commercial presence from the South China Sea, particularly the oil exploration projects it has with Vietnam, says a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Not only is Moscow working with Hanoi on the commercial side, but it is selling submarines that Vietnam believes it needs to stand up to Beijing as its feud continues over offshore mineral rights.

Moscow’s commercial and military interests in Vietnam, however, are part of a larger strategic issue of maintaining its presence in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims is in its area of influence.

China wants all outside interests to leave, including the U.S. For Moscow, however, it not only has its own strategic interest in the area, but any pullout would be considered by Moscow as a loss of face and prestige.

Such a choice, said Dmitriy Mosyakov of the Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania Center at the Russian Sciences Institute of Oriental States, would present “the Kremlin with a choice, the price of which may prove very high.”

In so doing, Mosyakov pointed out, “it will subordinate its national interests in Asia to the interests of China and in that case the bottom line for Russia will be not only a loss of face in Asia, affecting its image, but also a loss of very lucrative oil and gas contracts worth billions of dollars.”

China’s preoccupation with other countries’ access to its area of primary interest could increasingly influence its relations with these countries in other areas of mutual interest.

However, Beijing doesn’t appear to be at the stage yet of leveraging countries such as the U.S. and Russia to dampen their interest in the South China Sea.

The U.S. made a recent policy decision to return to the Asia-Pacific area with a greater emphasis on its military presence there. For example, the U.S. recently conducted military exercises with the Philippines in the South China Sea.

In addition to the intricate trade and financial interests it has with the U.S., as well as India, China still relies heavily on Russia for technology and new generation fighter jets.

Yet, all three countries have strategic interests in the South China Sea. China instead will focus more on intimidating the smaller countries in the region such as Vietnam and the Philippines, with which it has disputes over offshore mineral rights. But these days even the smaller countries don’t appear to be backing down much.

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