“The maritime drama near Scarborough Shoal is just another salvo in a growing strategic rivalry that can be managed but not resolved. A resolute but prudent American position that seeks region-wide cooperation on common rules, but backed by American strength, remains the best means of keeping the waters tranquil.” – Patrick Cronin
From the NY Times op-ed “Muddy Waters” by Patrick M. Cronin (here):
This month’s maritime standoff between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea isn’t the first time the region’s navies have gone toe-to-toe. But while past tensions revolved around resources under the ocean floor, this most recent event is part of a growing strategic rivalry pitting Chinese power against the United States and its East Asian allies. How Washington responds may determine the prospects for continued peace in the Pacific.
The latest crisis arose after the pocket-size Philippine Navy, with an old United States Coast Guard cutter as its new flagship, tried to apprehend Chinese fishermen it claimed were operating illegally near the Scarborough Shoal. China then sent two surveillance vessels — part of a recent effort to protect its claims in the East and South China Seas — to block the Philippine ship.
The message was stark: escalate and risk a violent run-in with the Chinese Navy, or stand down and negotiate with Beijing from a position of weakness.
Manila wisely chose the latter, first substituting a civilian vessel for its combat vessel, and then containing the dispute through diplomatic channels. But China was also sending a flare to Washington, to the effect that American efforts to strengthen the military capacity of its regional allies would be checked……