While I don't know that I would go so far to suggest the US is provoking a 'Gulf of Tonkin' incident as a prelude to war, I do think it's likely the US is looking for low-grade confrontations it can exploit.
The goal isn't war. That would be economically disastrous. An aspect of Cold War doctrine is applicable in this case. Don't think in terms of 'Rollback' a la Reagan and Goldwater. Right now we're somewhere between Détente and Containment, rapidly moving toward the latter. That's been the case for some time especially in other regions of the world.
These moves in the Pacific are about establishing precedent and granting justification for further military build-up. The US has been reaching out to the Philippines, Indonesia and even China's age old enemy Vietnam.
In this sense old Cold War thinking is not applicable. It's a new scenario but with numerous parallels. The Soviets are not in the picture. There's no Sino-Soviet split playing out in Southeast Asia with the US and China backing Cambodia's Lon Nol and then Pol Pot vs. Hanoi and Moscow. It's a little different this time.
There are other considerations as well. The Korean peninsula plays a part in this and it is such a volatile situation it's hard to know what will occur. A regime collapse could suddenly change the regional dynamics. To be honest neither China nor the US want to see it happen. It would create a crisis not just for the Koreans but for US-Chinese relations. The issues which led to Chinese involvement in the Korean would suddenly reappear. Korean unification would mean the US had tens of thousands of troops sitting on the Chinese border.
The rise of India is also playing a part in the growing tension. The US is reaching out to India and the folks in Washington and on Wall Street are quite pleased with the ascent of nationalist and neo-liberal Narendra Modi, though this does not help the tension with Pakistan. India as usual steers a middle course and doesn't want to completely align with the US and become a satellite or proxy. They are keeping their options open. But their uncomfortable, tense and sometimes hostile relationship with China plays out in the relationships with Russia, America and Pakistan. Every move by every party is carefully calculated. The future may force India to commit to a side.
Then there's the rise of Japan under Shinzo Abe and his policy shift moving Japan away from its post-war pacifism. In the past this move toward militarization and nationalism would have been frowned upon by Washington but not so today.
Many people believe that building up military strength and preparing for war acts as a deterrent. Others would suggest that these moves make war more likely if not inevitable.
And the Anglo-American alliance is being extended through the role of Australia. It is being set up as a regional proxy much in the same way South Africa was during the Cold War, but without the baggage.
The board is being set for a new Cold War. At this point only the pawns are engaged but the US is desperate to disentangle itself with the Middle East and begin making moves on the Pacific Rim. While China is being portrayed as the regional bully, and in some sense that's true, it is the United States that is taking the role of overall aggressor. The US has declared the region as belonging to them, has occupied much of it for decades, and for many years no one had the capability to challenge that claim.
If a foreign power dominated the Caribbean and Latin America you can be sure the United States would be moving to counter them. Very few in the United States or the international community would dispute the United States making such a move. The hypocrisy here is thick but you can be sure Western Media will not address it.
It's a dangerous game but like the last multi-generational low-grade war there are a lot of people who stand to get very wealthy from such a new/old paradigm. Bases, armaments, the facilitation of logistics and infrastructure are very profitable. These forces and corporate interests are doing all they can to ensure their political proxies make it a reality.
The Berlin Blockade and subsequent airlift, as well as war-mongering speeches by figures like Churchill facilitated the creation of NATO. The US is using TPP and every tool it can to create a similar scenario. If China moves to create similar institutions our media is sure to cry foul.