The maneuvers were an open challenge to and clear act of defiance toward China, following by two weeks U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement in the Vietnamese capital that the U.S. was prepared to intervene in territorial disputes over the above-mentioned islands on behalf of claimants Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia against China.
While in South Korea, Gates, Mullen and Willard confirmed plans for regular U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, including in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula. The bulk of the sea's coastline is Chinese territory.
China abruptly severed its military to military relations with the US in February of this year, due to US weapons sales to Taiwan.
The relationship between the two countries has continued to sour, and the US is not doing anything substantive to repair it.
These exercises are guaranteed to do one thing, and that is ratchet up the tensions in the region even further.
At a point in time where China is quietly moving out of its position in dollar holdings, one has wonder at the timing of these exercises, and precisely what they are intended to accomplish.
The US's attempting to bully China militarily may well have the absolute opposite outcome of its intended effect.