Singapore: The recent collision between a Chinese coast guard vessel and a Philippine resupply boat near the Second Thomas Shoal on October 22 is just the latest in a series of incidents in the South China Sea. Can these types of incidents trigger a confrontation between China and the United States. While the risk of a deliberate war appears low, the possibility of accidental conflict should not be underestimated, Channel News Asia article reported.

The South China Sea is a volatile region. A misjudgement or miscalculation on the ground could lead to an uncontrollable situation, given the proximity of rival maritime forces and heightened tensions, Collin Koh, senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, based at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, writes in Channel News Asia.

Meanwhile, efforts have also been made to improve US-China relations. Beijing and Washington have just begun their debut economic working group meeting this week, Collin Koh, writes in Channel News Asia.

The report said that China appears to be more interested in pulling its economy out of the doldrums; maintaining an unyielding posture in the South China Sea will suffice.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is now in Washington, the highest-ranking official to visit in nearly five years, opening the way for a November summit between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. Even on the difficult military-to-military front, things are looking good, Koh writes.

Moreover, the harsh truth is that escalation in the South China Sea is the last thing anyone requires.

This weekend, the US Defence Department will send a delegation to the Xiangshan Forum. The formal resignation of Li Shangfu as defence minister, seen by some as an obstacle to high-level military conversations due to US sanctions, may present a new window of opportunity, he added.

According to Channel News Asia, the United States is inexorably linked to two parallel wars in Europe and the Middle East, and it may not be willing to open a "third front" in Asia, especially so close to a presidential election.

While refusing to back down on its stand on the Second Thomas Shoal, the Philippines still faces a slew of social and economic issues, and an armed war would impede recovery efforts.

For the time being, the vibes emanating from Beijing, Manila, and Washington do not appear to indicate a desire for the latest squabble to escalate into something with far-reaching ramifications.

Chinese President Xi Jinping indicated a desire to collaborate and peacefully resolve disputes with the United States. American President Joe Biden reaffirmed the US resolve to protect its partner, the Philippines, if attacked in the South China Sea, but expressed no wish for conflict.

While underlining its sovereignty over the disputed shoal, Manila made it clear that the country is not at war with China. It is critical to cut through the hyperbole and determine what prevents them from crossing the line into the use of kinetic force, Channel News Asia reported.

While the risk of premeditated war does not appear to be high, no one should discount the possibility of accidental conflict. The South China Sea is a tinderbox. A miscalculation or misjudgement of the situation on the ground could possibly set things spinning out of control, considering the close proximity of rival maritime forces and frayed nerves, Koh opines while writing for Channel News Asia.

The American warship USS Dewey was spotted near the scene of the recent collision, which the Chinese could not have missed. This could have discouraged them from taking more harsh measures. Beijing may have been testing how far Washington was willing to go to defend Manila.

The situation surrounding the Second Thomas Shoal appears to be getting worse in the foreseeable future.

For one thing, the Philippines must now consider the long-term future of the rusting cruiser BRP Sierra Madre. The most recent incident involved Philippine vessels transporting equipment for ship repairs, so tougher Chinese reactions cannot be ruled out if Manila decides to build a permanent presence.