On July 4, when asked about China's claim to be the undisputed owner of a disputed territory, a spokesman for the President of the Philippines urged officials to "Be a careful about your statements". Only July 3 it was announced that the Philippines is contemplating asking the U.S. to provide a spy plane to monitor the disputed area, a revelation which has led many to accuse the Philippines of exacerbating the conflict.
Officials from the Philippines have defended plans to ask for American assistance by asserting that it should not be seen a provocative move by other nations, as they are "merely asserting" its "sovereign right" to monitor its own territory.
The real issue from the U.S. perspective is how to best handle this territory dispute now that the Philippines might formally request help. If the U.S. decides to try and assume a mediator role it will be very difficult to avoid drawing the contempt of many in the region because they all want the same thing. If the U.S. declines to be involved altogether, some might view it as a sign of weakness and an unwillingness to confront China.
As the Philippines is one of the U.S.'s closest allies in the region, and China its largest trading partner, it is very hard to imagine a situation where diplomatic relations in the region get stronger across the board if this conflict continues to escalate. If the territory dispute can not be resolved through peaceful negotiation, the U.S. may have to take a stand.