After delaying for months, the Obama administration has authorized the US Pacific Command to send warships into the disputed South China Sea, and China is threatening to confront the naval presence as part of an aggressive buildup in the region. However, the US military is not expected to send the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group to pass passing within 12 miles of any disputed islands that China is claiming as its territory.

The carrier arrived at its new homeport of Yokosuka, Japan on Oct. 1 replacing the USS George Washington. Instead of a carrier group, the administration is likely to send one of its new, lightly-armed Littoral Combat Ships on what the military calls FON, for freedom of navigation, operation, in the next two weeks. MORE