China has heightened tensions in the South China Sea with its new, remove island city and planned garrison in a contested area viewed as a potential flash point for conflict in the Asian Pacific.
How might the US respond?
Criticize Beijing too strongly and the Obama administration will strain its relationship with the emerging superpower. Let it pass and undermine two years of intense diplomacy that has promoted US standing among Southeast Asian nations that are intimidated by China's rise.
China will not be able to project much military on tiny Yongxing island, which covers only 220 square miles. But it has symbolic importance.
Beijing says it will administer hundreds of thousands of square miles of water where it wants to strengthen its control over disputed and potentially oil rich islands.
President Obama will not want to appear soft on China as he fights for re-election against Republican contender Mitt Romeny, who has already accused the incumbent of being weak on Beijing and has vowed to get tough, in particular, on China's trading practices.