U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping depart at the conclusion of a joint news conference in the Rose Garden, September 25, 2015.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

By all appearances, the U.S. Navy is poised to begin Freedom of Navigation exercises in the South China Sea. Rumors first emerged in May 2015 that the Pentagon was contemplating military operations around China’s new artificial islands among the Spratly Islands. Through such exercises, the United States would aim to demonstrate that it does not recognize spurious Chinese claims to water and airspace around the islands. So far, the Department of Defense has declined to make moves near China’s so-called Great Wall of Sand. The administration has, however, consistently stated that there are U.S. national interests in freedom of navigation and overflight in this vital waterway, where $5 trillion of global trade passes each year. With the presidential summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping now complete, operations seem imminent.

At the very least, the public debate about South China Sea Freedom of

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  • MIRA RAPP-HOOPER is a Senior Fellow in the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security.
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