Beijing announced today that it has sent a maritime patrol ship into the South China Sea.
Still, the People's Republic insists it is committed to not use force in the dispute over the waters with Vietnam and five other Southeast Asian nations and territories, according to a statement from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei.
Beijing is deploying its patrol ship as the latest in a series of measures from China and Vietnam that have intensified the fierce debate on which regional power possesses sovereignty over the South China Sea.
The water space is not only believed to be rich in oil and natural gas reserves, but is also the busiest shipping route in the world.
Some estimates hold that almost half of the world's merchant fleet by tonnage sails through the South China Sea each year.
On two separate occasions, one on June 9 and another late last month, Chinese vessels cut the cords on PetroVietnam ships, which was surveying the region's natural resource deposits.
Although Beijing claimed that the ships were private vessels, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Phuong Nga said that both attacks were premeditated.
The imbroglio resulted in mass protests in Vietnam and spurred nationalist sentiment in both countries.
Earlier this week, Hanoi conducted a six-hour-long live-fire drill in the South China Sea. Beijing condemned the act as a movement to militarize the ongoing conflict, and said that it would not resort to force.
Analysts worry that the deployed petrol ship is the next step in the militarization of this conflict.