Since China began reclaiming land in the South China Sea a few months ago using advanced dredging techniques, the Spratly Islands have become a test of wills between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. As WSJ’s Andrew Browne writes, one tiny reef in particular has become a potential flashpoint for U.S.-China ties:
With its feverish island-building, China gives the impression that it wants to turn the South China Sea, the world’s busiest shipping thoroughfare, into its own lake. For Mr. Obama, this is about maintaining American military primacy in East Asia—and the credibility of America’s security guarantees to its friends and allies.
That explains why Subi Reef–what was once a “now-you see-it, now-you-don’t” speck in the ocean–has suddenly become one of the most closely scrutinized spots on the planet and the primary battleground in a gathering confrontation between the U.S. and China.