China tests its first carrier battle group in the South China Sea in January 2014. (Photo/CNS)

Michael Auslin, The Commentator: Three ways China and the U.S. could go to war

Beijing and Washington are each laying down redlines in the South China Sea, making the upholding of their claims a priority. In this, they are maneuvering themselves into a potential conflict. There are three real-world scenarios under which it could happen.

After years of being a focus of interest for specialists, the South China Sea is now getting major attention from the media. The latest is a CNN report that a US Navy P-8 surveillance plane was warned away from some of China’s manmade islands in the Spratly Island chain by the Chinese Navy.

Beijing has not yet declared a formal air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, unlike the one it established over part of the East China Sea in 2013, nor could it today enforce such a zone effectively with its current fighters.

However, with its reclamation activities continuing, and the Obama Administration apparently having decided to challenge China’s claims, the US and China are now potentially closer to an armed encounter than at any time in the past 20 years.

Here are three ways the US and China could go to war:

WNU Editor: My Chinese contacts are telling me that China is not going to back down on their South China Sea claims, and once their "islands" are completed, they will be formally announcing an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea .... and they will be enforcing it as if it was the Chinese mainland.

Update: How China’s Land Reclamation Fits in its Regional Strategy for Dominance -- Patrick Cronin, War On The Rocks

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