A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014.
Nguyen Minh / Reuters

On January 30, 2016, the United States sent a navy destroyer within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s outposts in the South China Sea. Days later, satellite images revealed that China had installed surface-to-air missiles on an outpost around the same time that United States President Barack Obama met with the ten leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to discuss the South China Sea. The clash of interests between China and the United States in the South China Sea has become more direct, and the situation is only going to get worse.

For years, the United States has tried to foster an environment that would provide incentives for countries with sovereignty claims to South China Sea islands to reach compromises. The United States has led efforts to uphold international law and support multilateral diplomatic processes, and it has taken steps to defend its allies and partners in Southeast

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  • MICHAEL H. FUCHS is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where his work focuses on U.S. foreign policy priorities and U.S. policy toward the Asia-Pacific. Fuchs most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
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