China said on Monday agreements like the one reached last week by the United States and the Philippines allowing for a U.S. military presence at five Philippine bases raised questions about militarization in the South China Sea.
The actual question is "who will block China's militarization of the South China Sea to gain complete and exclusive control of this body of largely international waters.
The answer is, we will with the help of a lot of regional allies who want to know the answer to the actual question rather than China's farcical "who, me?" question.
I will say that this is a tremendous success of the Obama administration's pivot to Asia.
The pivot is small in military terms, really, and it just continued an existing trend since the end of the Cold War, but it has been working to give reasons for our allies to rally around us.
Have no doubt that this ability to rally allies is crucial to preventing China from simply absorbing the South China Sea as the City of Sansha.
A failure to reassure allies would lead countries to doubt us and eventually lead someone to be the first to cut a deal with China rather than rely on us. Once that process starts, it would snowball as combined allied power declines relative to China's power and more states decide that orbiting the Middle Kingdom is safer than resistance.
So far we are bringing allies in rather than seeing them peeled away.
So kudos to President Obama. I may worry that lack of resolve has weakened our ability to reassure allies. But in the western Pacific he is getting the job done.