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A Miscalculation of Consequence in the Making on Asian Seas

Given all the actions: that China has unilaterally declared an Air Defense Identification Zone(ADIZ) over the East China Sea that overlaps Japanese administered islands; and that China's claim to a gargantuan swath of the South China Sea encroaches into the exclusive economic waters of at least five nations including the Philippines and Vietnam; a miscalculation of serious consequence appears inevitable that could plunge China into conflict with one or more of its neighbors.

China's new found wealth, a sense of destiny, along with its modernizing army, an insatiable appetite for energy and natural resources, are the driving forces of China's aggression and provocations on the seas of Asia.

The Philippines has brought territorial disputes with China before the International Court at the Hague, Netherlands. The Philippines protest China's claims to any territory or reefs within its exclusive economic zone and specifically, the Scarborough Shoals and the The Second Thomas Shoals -  two regions on the South China Sea of rich fisheries and reported vast reserves of oil. 

On May 1, China moved into Vietnamese waters with a deep sea oil drilling rig defended by a flotilla of Chinese boats. Vietnam protested. The Vietnamese people rioted attacking Chinese nationals and property in Vietnam. China extracted its workers from Vietnam, but the oil rig remains off Vietnam's coast and it likely will remain there until Typhoon season in August, unless Vietnam musters the power to challenge the rig militarily. 

Adm. Samuel Locklear, the United States(US) military commander in the Pacific, has admonished both China and Vietnam to exercise restraint. But last Friday, Adm. Locklear warned of a wider conflict that could erupt in the region because of the risk of a miscalculation by an actor in one of the disputes. "The risk of miscalculation, I think, is high and we encourage them both to exercise restraint," the admiral said.

The risk of conflict also remains high on the East China Sea as earlier today, both China and Japan scrambled fighter jets in response to each other's planes flying over disputed waters. Japan's defense minister, according to Reuters, has described as "over the top" China's actions to the disputed islands. Japan has complained that on Saturday, Chinese SU-27 fighters armed with missiles came within 170 feet(50 meters) to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane and a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft near disputed islands. "This is a close encounter that is outright over the top," Japan's defense minister Itsunori Onodera said of the incident.

So as China continues to assert its intended influence over the East and South China Seas, it is growing more apparent that some miscalculation could trigger a conflict at anytime.