Philippines-China Standoff Could Lead to Open Conflict

Washington's imperial policies in the Asia-Pacific region have only exacerbated tensions

Armed vessels from the Philippines and China continue their two-week-long standoff after Chinese fisherman trespassed into contested waters, prompting swift reaction from both navies.

This latest nautical standoff arises from longstanding tensions between the Asian states over the territorial rights to the waters, which are not only rich fishing grounds but hold potentially vast reserves of oil and gas. Increased U.S. military expansion throughout Asia-Pacific, and specifically a deal facilitating greater U.S. military and naval access to the Philippines, have heightened tensions with China.

China’s claim to the territory is dubious, as the ships came into contact only 200 nautical miles off the shores of the Philippines. ”We’re not retreating from our own territory,” Alexander Pama, Chief Vice Admiral of the Philippine navy said.

But the undercurrents of imperial competition and regional hegemony are more relevant. ”The timing of the dispute suggests China is keen to send a message to the Philippines and the U.S. ahead of their bilateral military exercise, and to assert its authority in the disputed area,” Maria Patrikainen, a global insight analyst at IHS told Fox News at the start of the controversy.

One of the primary strategies Washington has used to gain military and economic hegemony over the world has been to establish mutual defense treaties with nations in strategically important areas.

Washington’s 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines states, “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.” The treaty essentially obligates the U.S. to confront China to defend the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has its own ridiculous claims to the territorial waters of the South China Sea. Washington holds that it can patrol China’s two-hundred-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) with naval warships without China’s permission, an opinion China disagrees with. Of course, the U.S. would certainly object to Chinese naval vessels patrolling the western seaboard along Californian shores. But such rules are only considered to apply to states other than America.

Greater U.S. involvement with the Philippines and surrounding areas are part of a broader imperial plan to counter China’s regional influence and unnecessarily provoke China and increase tensions. Such confrontations like this one could lead to gratuitous violence for a petty imperial contest.

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.