On a summer’s evening in the sweltering South China Sea, a coastal steamer of nearly 2,000 tons approaches a Vietnamese fishing fleet in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam, some 150 miles off that nation’s coast. The steamer loiters in the area for an hour or two as night falls. Suddenly from the side of the ship three fast speedboats are deployed, each armed with .50 caliber guns and hand-held rocket launchers. For the next hour, the speedboats attack dozens of fishing craft, spraying them with .50 caliber fire, hitting them with grenades, and shooting at survivors in the water. The surviving fishing boats flee toward the coast, frantically radioing distress calls, which are jammed by small drones operating overhead.
By the time the Vietnamese Coast Guard arrives on scene the next morning, alerted by one of the boats that finally managed to limp into port, there is only blood in the water, mixed with oil and gasoline, and several smoldering hulls. One of the Coast Guard ships strikes a small, crude mine and sustains damage to its hull. On one of the still floating fishing craft, an improvised explosive device goes off when Vietnamese sailors board it searching for clues to the origin of the incident. Vietnamese social networks are flooded with warnings to fishermen that the waters of their traditional fishing grounds are full of terrorists. A series of cyber attacks cripples the Vietnamese offshore radar surveillance system.