The US will not go to war for islands and rocks in the South China Sea, including Taiwan, and China knows it. The Chinese will make their moves when the US has completely destroyed itself. From Patrick J. Buchanan at buchanan.org:
In his final state of the nation speech Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defended his refusal to confront China over Beijing’s seizure and fortification of his country’s islets in the South China Sea.
“It will be a massacre if I go and fight a war now,” said Duterte. “We are not yet a competent and able enemy of the other side.”
Duterte is a realist. He will not challenge China to retrieve his lost territories, as his country would be crushed. But Duterte has a hole card: a U.S. guarantee to fight China, should he stumble into war with China.
Consider. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Manila we would invoke the U.S.-Philippines mutual security pact in the event of Chinese military action against Philippine assets.
“We also reaffirm,” said Blinken, “that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”
Is this an American war guarantee to fight the People’s Republic of China, if the Philippines engage a Chinese warship over one of a disputed half-dozen rocks and reefs in the South China Sea? So it would appear.