As tensions have erupted into open conflict in several parts of the world, including the Middle East, a number of analysts both in Asia and in the U.S. fear Washington and its allies may soon come to blows with China unless the downward spiral in their relationships with Beijing is halted.

This dangerous scenario is being made more likely by the failure of East Asian governments to be more proactive in pressing for diplomatic solutions, they say, with the experts warning that exacerbating the geopolitical competition with Beijing and prioritizing deterrence over high-level engagement will not make the world safer.

“Responding to threats with threats traps both sides in a negative spiral that, if not interrupted by diplomacy and compromise, almost always leads to war,” said Gregory Kulacki, China project manager at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a member of the recently launched East Asia Quadrilateral Dialogue.