The April 9 editorial “ ‘Great Wall of sand’ ” asked the right question: “Why is China paving over these Pacific atolls?” The “why” is clear: to gain unchallenged hegemony in the South China Sea. And the threat is stark: The sea is a vital commercial and security link between the Pacific and Indian oceans.
The question is what to do about it. Beyond President Obama’s “pivot” to the region, how do we get China to see peaceful coexistence as in its best interest? Actions should include: Be clear that China’s intrusions into the Exclusive Economic Zones of smaller nations are violations of the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which China ratified in 1996. Congress should give the president “fast-track” authority to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Smaller nations — Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, even Indonesia — should resolve all their differences in the South China Sea and form a coalition to pressure China into multilateral negotiations, which it has resisted to date. Move quickly and then invite bigger friends — the United States, Japan, Korea and Australia — to join, adding pressure on China.