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What would America do if China starts to build an island base on Scarborough Shoal, declares an ADIZ over the Spratlys, or in some other way plainly takes steps to strengthen still further its grip on the South China Sea in defiance of international law and American demands? President Obama ought to think about this very carefully as he visits China for the last time as President, because it has become the question that will define the future of the US-China relationship.
The question is hardly hypothetical. Indeed, it is already being asked, albeit in an apparently rather casual manner, at the highest military levels, as the New York Times reported a few months ago. “Would you go to war over Scarborough Shoals?” General Dunford asked Admiral Harris, in a conversation overheard by a reporter. If Admiral Harris responded, it could not be heard.
Read Would America really go to war over the South China Sea? by Hugh White published in the National Interest.