Lets begin with the “threat” or rather the “US feeling it is being threatened” by China’s rise on the world stage, or China’s SCS neighbours feel threatened . It has to be one or the other.
China has offered to negotiate SCS difference with it’s neighbours and so far WHO has accepted? I don’t know.
Because the US has inserted itself one more time outside of it’s home domain; its allies think it does not have to enter talks towards negotiating a solution, which in my POV is a mistake. As long as sides are entrenched as non-negotiable; then there will never be a resolution.
IMO the US is not going handle anything in the SCS. It will blah blah blah, like it has done in the Middle East for a last 5 years on Syria. It has to put on a show for Japan, S Korea and Taiwan. They are the primary parties the US has to try to save face with; while Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia are throw aways for the US.
I wrote one month ago in this platform what China was going do post the PCA outcome; and US’s initial reaction. It has played out as I predicted.
China has not stepped back. China is instituting a soft power strategy against the US and Japan, which should prevent a quick escalation in the area. This will frustrate Japan and buy the US time until a new POTUS is elected and a new cabinet is appointed.
The best way for the US maintain its world leader image is to strongly encourage all the parties in the SCS dispute to find a method to create a suitable solution. The US can again return to acting like they prefer world peace. One of the things the US was recognized for in its glory days.
However, if the US uses hubris and the threat of the stick etc as the interloper in a regional dispute; the eventual outcome will only accelerate the decline of the US’s stature in the world needlessly.
More concerning is what might Japan do, or what might N Korea do. Will the situation devolve to where China and Japan’s neighbour Putin feels the need to insert some influence? The potential outcomes are never ending.
There is an old saying for situation like this – “Do you know how porcupines have sex? Veeeery caaarefullllly”.
If the US thinks it can handle China in the SCS will need to be “ very careful”.