Temperatures are rising in Manila and Beijing. China has dubbed the South China Sea in Mussolini fashion ‘mare nostrum’.
SCS is awash in fish and mineral and oil and gas wealth. Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and Vietnam for example, besides China and the Philippines also jealously claim territorial rights, yet, unlike Beijing do not covert it completely.
Manila caught Chinese fishermen poaching in its territorial waters 230 miles off its coast. Now, China, a good 1200 miles away, insists it has the right to fishing in Filipino waters that fall within Manila’s internationally recognised territorial limit of 300 miles.
President Aquino rose to say that he will defend Filipino territorial rights, even though his country’s navy pales in power in comparison with China’s. Into the fray has stepped the US which has treaty ties to the Philippines.
So, you can read the volumes of tough talk as, for the present, a verbal confrontation between Washington and Beijing. In the light of the Chen and Bo Xilai incidents, China is itching for going toe to toe with the US, short of war perhaps.
Beijing still smarts at the long history of the US Sixth Fleet in the Taiwan Straits which has thwarted China’s designs to swallow Taiwan.
Hillary Clinton in a meeting of Asia Pacific nations in Vietnam stirred the pot by lecturing China on its puffed up claims to the SCS. So, we are witnessing another panel in an evolving narrative of US China rivalry.