Thus far, it’s been a busy year for the Game of Thrones in Asia. Scarcely a week goes by without an announcement of a new military, naval, or strategic agreement in East Asia that tweaks the competition between the U.S. and Chinese alliance systems. Yet for all this activity, America has managed to keep its distance, and cooler heads have generally prevailed throughout the region.Wednesday’s standoff between the Philippines’ largest warship and a Chinese surveillance craft may be a sign that this period of relative peace is coming to an end. After the Filipino warship moved to arrest a number of Chinese fisherman near the Scarborough Shoal—a disputed uninhabited area over which both countries claim sovereignty—nearby Chinese ships intervened to block their access. The standoff is ongoing. Both governments have begun to issue statements asserting their control over the area and are accusing the other of territorial violations. America has stated that it will not take sides in the dispute and has called for a peaceful resolution.Conflicts over sparsely inhabited islands in the South China Sea are nothing new. The Spratly Islands in particular are well known as a contested region by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and other nearby nations. So far America has managed to stay out of these disputes, but as America increases its presence in the region due to its “pivot” to Asia, it will find it more difficult to remain neutral.The Great Game is now beginning in earnest. Once the game is afoot, you can’t control what comes next. America doesn’t want to get involved, but here we are. Unfortunately, we’ll have to get used to it; this is only the beginning.