Scarborough Shoal: A Conflict Over Some Submerged Rocks?

While a joint US-Filipino Naval exercise is taking place off the coast of Luzon, the Chinese Navy is running their own exercise simultaneously in the region.

“China’s official Liberation Army Daily warned that recent jostling with the Philippines over disputed seas where both countries have sent ships could boil over into outright conflict, and laid much of the blame at Washington’s door,” Chris Buckley writes for Reuters.

Tensions continue to grow between Beijing and Manila, both sides puffing their chests like teenagers about to go to blows.  They don’t really want to fight, not now, because after all…someone could get hurt.  In the great game of international brinksmanship, no one can afford to lose face.

Picture Credit: The Telegraph

What is all of this backslapping about?  Scarborough Shoal.  A friend was only half joking when he told me that about five rocks are visible on this reef at low tide.  The shoal is a strategically insignificant island located off the coast of the Philippines in the South China Sea, but of course there are deeper issues involved here.

Chinese Influence in the Pacific Rim

Scarborough Shoal is in the middle of a number of commercial shipping lanes which gets us a little closer to what this stand off is really about, a stand off that as silly as it may be, can erupt into a full blown confrontation with the war ships of China, the Philippines, and the United States all patrolling the area.

What this confrontation is really about is Chinese influence.  Not to be to blunt about it, but Beijing is presenting the United States with a fait accompli, throwing their balls on the table and seeing what America will do to check their threats of territory expansion.  It’s all part of a larger agenda regarding push and pull in the Pacific Rim.