It's not often you get a chance to see one of the most dangerous flashpoints in Asia.
We went on a boat to the South China Sea to check out the latest standoff between Vietnam and China.
Hanoi believes that the waters near the Paracel Islands are part of Vietnam's own economic zone. The Chinese, who control the Paracels, claim the waters. To make their point, in May, Chinese state oil company CNOOC put an oil rig in the disputed waters, sparking a tense standoff.
The Vietnamese government, which is on a PR offensive against Beijing, organized the trip for a handful of other journalists. We were told it would take about one week and require that we transfer boats.
We cast off from the port city of Da Nang with the Vietnamese coast guard, traveled overnight, and by morning got a glimpse of the conflict. When we got up to the deck, we saw a Chinese warship.
As we drew nearer to the rig we switched boats. Our hosts said a bigger boat would better outrun the numerous Chinese vessels they expected we would face.
After jumping into a dingy, we sped across the open ocean to CSB-8003 – a 1,600 ton vessel – ordered by the Vietnamese authorities to patrol the area near the rig.
There, I met the crew of CSB-8003 led by Captain Hung Nguyen Van.
Every day, Captain Hung and his some 30 crewmen attempt to get their vessel close to the rig – and remind the Chinese that Vietnam still claims these waters. I was told that day the Chinese ships outmanned Vietnam's 110 to 5 though the odds didn't seem to deter Captain Hung.