While the 'game' did not begin with the U.S. Department of State's press statement on August 3 -- that statement, urging regional dialogue and diplomacy -- the attention of the USA, over the weekend, ignited
1. The South China Sea, since the Obama administration has re-focused attention on Asia-Pacific, is now highlighting a long-running dispute over territory, fishing rights, oil and gas exploration.
2. China continues to claim almost all of the sea with overlapping claims by the other nations.
3. Beijing, for example, has irritated Vietnam by establishing a new city, Sansha, on disputed islands where the borders are close. Taiwan also claims the same islands, the Paracels.
4. Irritating the Philippines, China has also established communication facilities in the Spratley Islands. Manilla is saying this is a military garrison.
5. Hanoi and Manilla have passed laws requiring all foreign ships passing through the disputed waters to notify authorities in both nations. Of course, China, claiming virtually the entire Sea, does not regard itself as foreign.
6. And for the first time in 45 years, last month, ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) was unable to agree on a statement of territorial rights consistent with the Law of the Sea Convention.
The region is economically important as approximately $5 trillion of cargo, much of it from the mines and forests of Australia, pass through the Sea's sea lanes annually. Tania Branigan, writing from Beijing, for the Guardian, says, '... that's half the world's shipping tonnage.”
Summing the contest of wills, pawn moves so far, Rory Medcalf of Australia's Lowy Institute observes, “What we see now is an action-reaction cycle.”
At the moment, while still small-scale on the world screen (sic), this observer sees small hope the potential crisis will go away anytime soon.
official Chinese responses in editorials claiming “trouble making” and then (Monday) the summoning by China of a US diplomat to make “representations” about American intentions in the South China Sea. What has happened at that meeting has not yet been revealed.