(Not a Teacher)
It's kind of an odd usage, but I'm guessing the author's trying to say that Asian countries generally don't see much of importance in small things, but they seem to identify these "outcrops and shoals" as threats to their national interests. This one excerpt doesn't make it clear what the "outcrops and shoals" are. It could be referring to the continent's outlying island nations, but that's not certain.
Student or Learner