China drone seizure throws down gauntlet to Obama and Trump

Such a dramatic upping of the ante is out of character for China, and American officials should understand that Beijing now appears willing to take increasingly risky actions. This latest provocation may well be at least partly in response to President-elect Trump’s recent comments on China, Taiwan and the One-China Policy.

At the same time, the latest challenge comes on the heels of steadily degrading relations between the Obama Administration and China, including news that Beijing is rapidly militarizing its newly built islands located near the Philippines. On these reclaimed shoals, China has emplaced anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in what can also be a precursor to fielding offensive weapons capabilities. In response, senior US military leaders have made forthright statements about America’s national interest in maintaining open and uncontested sea lanes. These comments have put Beijing on notice that Washington will not sit idly by if China appears be upending decades of peaceful development in Asia’s waters…

Should similar offenses occur again, Washington should make clear that it will take further action, including more direct support for nations facing Chinese pressure over their own territorial claims, such as enhanced defense cooperation and expedited supply of defensive equipment. Through it all, Washington must maintain a constant presence in contested waters, including freedom of navigation operations near Chinese-claimed territory.