It looks like the Banana War between China and the Philippines is finally ending. After Manilla used the convenient pretext of an approaching typhoon to order its ships to return from the Scarborough Shoal, Chinese fishing boats are likewise heading back to port, says the New York Times.As the Times also notes, however, neither side has ceded its claim to sovereignty over the rocky atoll in the South China Sea, and the issue may flare up again once the weather improves:
The seabeds of the South China Sea hold energy reserves that are being exploited in some areas. In other areas, energy companies hope to start drilling soon, including at Reed Bank, an area off the Philippine coast that China claims.
This respite should give diplomats a chance to negotiate a more permanent resolution. Those discussions will be aided by the arrival in Beijing of the new Filipino ambassador, who was sworn in on Monday. That the Philippines lacked an ambassador during the crisis was widely seen as contributing to the delay in reaching an agreement.The United States is likely to be dragged in to more of these geopolitical spot fires as it steps up its commitment in Asia; there’s a danger of being dragged in too far. Washington is rightly focused, then, on developing a “code of conduct” through multilateral forums such as ASEAN, which will reduce the chances for further confrontations of this kind.