The July 8 front-page article “ U.S.-China relations sour as tensions spiral in Asia ” failed to mention an element essential to understanding the lack of justification, legal or moral, in China’s continued and increasing aggression in the South China Sea.

In 1996, China ratified the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Vietnam and the Philippines had ratified earlier. The convention defined the exclusive economic zone of these nations as the waters extending 200 nautical miles from their respective shorelines and their continental shelves.

China's dragging of an oil-drilling rig into the Paracel archipelago this spring clearly intruded into Vietnam’s territorial waters, as defined by the convention. To refer to such a blatant violation of the sovereignty of another nation as a deployment “into disputed waters” serves only to encourage further Chinese aggression.

The United States and the international community must make clear that all desire mutually beneficial relations with China. No nation desires to “contain” China’s legitimate rise. But Chinese acts of war against others will be contained at whatever price. This offers the best chance that Beijing will opt for peaceful coexistence.

Andre Sauvageot, Reston