“The State Department has reaffirmed that an attack on a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea will invoke the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty following a near miss between Chinese and Philippine coast guard vessels in the disputed waters.

The stand-off took place on April 23 when Manila says a larger Chinese ship blocked a Philippine patrol vessel after warning it to leave the area near Second Thomas Shoal, a Philippine-controlled reef in the Spratly Islands also claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.”

Analyst Comment: There is a lot of attention on Ukraine and Taiwan as the potential flashpoint for WWIII, but these small conflicts in the ocean could easily escalate to war. China continues to expand patrols, inspections and military activity in the South China Sea, making future confrontations very likely.