London–Russia and the US are facing off through warning proxies in Ukraine, where the conflict is in abeyance, and Syria, where the war is intense. Still, let’s not forget about the face off in the South China Sea, sans proxy. It happened just the last couple of days.

Islands in the stream.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that US naval ships can sail wherever they want and that includes off islands that China says belong within its self-declared, expanded territorial zone off its coast. He sent a destroyer near the Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea, where China has tried to bolster its case with facts-in-the-sea by pouring a lot of on a bunch of reefs and creating mini naval bases.

At stake, from Washington’s point of view, is its credibility with allies that share the seas: Japan, Taiwan and Philippines, along with non-ally Vietnam.

China said it was a provocation. Not sure what they’re going to do about it.

It’s hard to believe that a South China Sea sail-by would spark hostilities. But certainly China and the US seem headed toward strategic disputes that were unthinkable just a few years ago.

An alarmist view from CNBC.

Wall Street Journal sees a confrontation looming.

CNN‘s take.




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