South China Sea: US Bargaining Chip or Key Interest?

The United States is either indifferent to freedom-of-navigation rights in the South China Sea or cagey about its strategic interests. The USS Dewey, a guided missile destroyer, moved within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, a land feature occupied by China, explains Donald K. Emmerson. The US Pacific Command had repeatedly been denied permission to conduct such an operation since Donald Trump became president in January. US intentions may puzzle China and its neighbors in Southeast Asia, and Emmerson lists the many questions and possible scenarios. Both Trump, through “transactional dealing,” and his predecessor Barack Obama, through “strategic patience,” emphasize linkage – to motivate Beijing to address other US concerns, including trade imbalances and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. – YaleGlobal

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