China says U.S. naval ship was breaking law: report

“The change is in China’s attitude. This reflects the hardening line in Chinese foreign policy and the importance we attach to the strategic value of the South China Sea.”

Denny Roy, an expert on Asia-Pacific security at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, said the confrontation appeared intended to send a message to Washington.

“I don’t think this happened spontaneously,” he said. “…No doubt it had the endorsement of central leaders in Beijing.”

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A recent study of China’s rising power by a top People’s Liberation Army thinktank said the country should seek to avoid confrontation with Washington but not shrink when pressed.

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Slideshow of Chinese submarine base on Hainan Island