Panatag shoal (Scarborough shoal) in the West Philippine sea could be the potential flashpoint in the standoff between the United States and China, amid concerns that the Chinese is planning to expand the area, trying to reclaim the shoal and turn it again into an artificial island so they can easily extend its influence in the region.
A month ago the U.S. military monitored a Chinese ship conducting survey work around a clump of rocks, sandbars and coral reefs over this triangle-shaped chain of reefs known as Scarborough shoal.
According to the report, There is no sign yet of any land reclamation, however, any such work would come close to a red line for the U.S. and the Philippines, given the proximity to the country and to Philippine military bases where U.S. forces were redeployed this month.
The shoal is about 198 kilometres (123 mi) west of Subic Bay and well with in the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and It is around 470 nautical miles from the closest point on the Chinese mainland.
Even so, there is growing concern among U.S. and Philippine officials that Beijing plans to begin such work at the shoal, possibly in response to a ruling on its territorial claims by an arbitration panel in The Hague this coming May or June. – Jason E.