Is this latest "incursion" in line with the Obama Regime's assertion of "freedom of navigation" by sailing through what the rest of the world considers international waters while Red China considers them their maritime territory? Or are these "canaries in the coal mine" - bait to provoke a ChiComm attack? And if the latter, for what strategic purpose?:
The U.S. Navy sent its third warship in less than seven months into Chi[Comm]-claimed waters of the South China Sea as tensions rise ahead of an international court’s ruling on the territorial dispute.
The USS William P. Lawrence, a guided-missile destroyer, on Tuesday sailed within the twelve-nautical-mile territorial zone around Fiery Cross Reef, a feature in the Spratly Islands where [Red] China has dumped hundreds of thousands of tons of sand and coral to create an island on which it has built an airstrip. The transit was a "freedom-of-navigation" operation by the U.S. military to demonstrate the right to fly and sail through what it considers international waters and airspace....
The warship “threatened” [Red] China’s sovereignty and put staff and facilities on the island at risk, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a briefing in Beijing Tuesday. The U.S.’s regular freedom-of-navigation operations since 1979 were “a naked challenge” to the maritime order, he said.
Lu said [Red] Chinese naval vessels followed, monitored and warned the U.S. warship. “The [Red] Chinese side resolutely opposed it, and will continue to carry out necessary measures to safeguard sovereignty and security,” he said. [emphasis added]
Sounds ominous, doesn't it? Especially when accompanied by this:
The [Red] Chinese navy over the past week carried out combat drills in the South China Sea, led by the Hefei, one of the country’s most advanced missile destroyers, according to official Xinhua News Agency. Five other vessels participated, along with three helicopters and dozens of “special warfare” soldiers.
In any sort of conventional situation, one would conclude that this is just what it looks like: The U.S. making the point that the South China Sea does not belong to Red China by regularly sending its ships and planes through its waters and airspace, and attempting to show that the ChiComms are imponent to - or would not dare - to assert their illegitimate maritime claim any more "muscularly" than via petulant press releases. So far, that's been how this has played out. But can that continue?
If the arbitration tribunal hearing the dispute under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea rules in favor of Beijing, then it's inconceivable that the Obame Regime won't knuckle under and recognize it, despite its effective vassalization of Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea by cutting off the shipping lane from the Strait of Malacca through which five trillion dollars of trade, including a whole lot of oil, flows annually. But if the tribunal rules against the ChiComms, it's also inconceivable that they won't reject its decision and maintain their claim to and occupation of the South China Sea. What would the White House do then? Continue "freedom of navigation" operations that would run an escalating risk of igniting a shooting war with the PRC? Or knuckle under anyway, call them off, and tacitly recognize the SCS as a ChiComm lake?
That's a rhetorical question as well. Or would be if O wasn't maintaining these "freedom of navigation" operations, and hadn't initiated them in the first place.
Looks and sounds like a powder keg to me.