Even so, the fact that lots of countries in the region are not happy with what China is trying to do there, the USA is only getting into it because it's China, and the US wantsa to keep China in check. Not because they care much or at all about the territorial rights and claims of little countries.
Philippines population: 92m
New Zealand population: 4.5m
Is the US involved in this issue out of its deep abiding love of democracy, puppies and freedom of the seas? Of course not, they haven't even ratified UNCLoS, unlike China. This is irrelevant. The US has important strategic and economic relationships with all participants in the dispute, including China and thus has significant interests in seeing it resolved without conflict or undue economic harm to any of the participants.
It's still the cold war, but the nature of the threat is different and the methods of prosecuting the war are different. How does the US feel about the prospect of not being the biggest superpower any more, and worse still the the prospect of the biggest super power being an undemocratic, communist state? Pretty bloody worried if you ask me. I'm sure the US is quite keen to slow that train down, at least unitl China gets to the democratic reforms stage of political evolution. But even so, once China takes over as the world's biggest economy the US ain't never getting it, or it's level of influence as a unipolar power, back, and that's a big loss.
This isn't anything like the Cold War. The Soviets didn't hold two trillion USD and there wasn't half a trillion USD in trade between the two countries. The relationship between the US and China is much more entangled and much less adversarial than the Cold War at its mildest. The idea that China seeks, or is capable of replacing or overshadowing the US also deserves a lot of scrutiny, for reasons I've outlined elsewhere
Analyses that focus on the SCS dispute as a US-China confrontation neglect the basic fact that what China claims is unacceptable to all other parties to the dispute, not to mention the wider region. The US is being drawn to Asia in part because everyone from longstanding allies to former Chinese clients is looking for a counterweight to China, which still approaches neighbouring countries with a belligerence and paranoia that has driven even the SLORC
out of their orbit. One problem with the pivot for the US will be avoiding being used as a foil in disputes of these kinds, precisely because it isn't in the US's interests to isolate China.
Edited by Horza, 05 December 2012 - 10:55 PM.