China has also laid claim to virtually the entire East China Sea, which is bordered by South Korea as well as Japan. It has declared the Yellow Sea and Taiwan Strait off limits to the U.S. Navy.
China also occupies Indian territory taken in war half a century ago, though it has lately muted its claim to vast tracts in Russia's Far East along the Amur and Ussuri rivers.
China and Russia fought a border war there in 1969.
What is the China of Xi Jinping about?
With Maoism and Marxism a dead faith, the Communist Party is no longer able to invoke world revolution to justify its monopoly on power. Xi Jinping's party needs to ground its claim to absolute and permanent power on some other animating force.
China is rooting its new claims in the old standbys -- history, tribe, and nation -- the natural recourse of rising powers.
With corruption rampant, and glaring economic equality between its billionaires and its hundreds of millions subsisting on $2 a day, China needs a cause to divert the masses and keep them united -- behind the leaders and against those the leaders designate as enemies.
The Chinese people are being told they have enemies who seek to deny their country its place in the sun. Some use the Dalai Lama to effect a breakaway of Tibet. Others encourage Muslim Uighurs to split off Xinjiang and create an East Turkestan.
The dilemma for China is that in stoking nationalism with claims of sovereignty over all adjacent seas, Beijing risks uniting its neighbors against it. China could end up isolating itself, as Asian neighbors turn to the United States for protection.
Push Japan hard enough and China may effect a change in its constitution, Japan's rearmament, and another look by Tokyo at nuclear weapons.
Pushed too hard, the U.S, and Japan, China's largest trading partners, could shift their reliance on goods to Southeast Asia.
As for America, we might want to reflect on the decision to throw open our markets to Chinese goods and to incentivize U.S. companies to shift factories, technology and jobs to a rising China
How wise does that look, now that the Asian tiger feels strong enough to begin to push the United States out of the Western Pacific, its sovereign seas, and its sphere of influence?
How will this all end? This week, China is sending its first probe to the moon -- as Congress debates an increase in food stamps.