The potential war beween China and the Philippines that the U.S. is being snared into that Americans know little about

Thursday, May 10, 2012
By Paul Martin
May 10, 2012

PHILIPPINES – War talk, it seems, is all the rage in China at the minute. Yes, there are serious people in serious publications seriously advocating war. You might have missed it during all the fuss about Chen Guangcheng, but, for a month now, China has been embroiled in an increasingly bellicose dispute with the Philippines. So what is going on? Well, strange as it may seem, the two stories may be connected. At the heart of the issue is what is called Scarborough Shoal by the Philippines and Huangyan Island by China, a little more than 100 miles (160km) from the Philippines and 500 miles from China. The names are a bit misleading because this is a series of rocks, reefs and small islands stretching across an area of about 150sq km (58 sq miles) of the South China Sea, claimed by both the Philippines and China. For a month now, there has been a standoff between Chinese and Philippine fishing and coastguard vessels near the outcrops. The Global Times, a highly nationalistic English language paper produced by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily Group, has a useful map that shows how far China‘s territorial claims extend, on this special page it is now devoting to this ‘conflict.’ On Tuesday, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying summoned a Philippine diplomat for the third time in this standoff, and delivered a warning, that China has “made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side.” On Wednesday, the Global Times helpfully explained in its editorial that Ms Fu’s “remarks are seen as China sending a sign that it will not rule out the use of force.” The paper explained: “The Philippines needs to be taught a lesson for its aggressive nationalism. For China, the standoff over Huangyan Island is a matter of sovereignty. And now Manila needs to be defeated in this area… If the standoff escalates into a military clash, the international community should not be completely surprised.” For China, sovereignty is one of the key issues it says it will not compromise on, so it is sending strong signals but also boxing itself in. But there are dangers here too. The president of the Philippines has tweeted this statement this week, making clear that the Philippines believes America will help protect it from any Chinese aggression. So a dispute could lead to a very tense situation. And now we have more escalation. China is now piling commercial pressure on top of the diplomatic and military pressure, halting tourism to the Philippines, tightening inspections of fruit imports and warning its citizens to be careful of their safety during demonstrations planned for Manila on Friday. It’s a dangerous dynamic that could escalate much further yet. We will keep watching. -BBC

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