There are now three United States carrier groups en route, or near, the Korean peninsula. At the moment Kim Jong-un is the madman de jour, but the situation in the Asian shipping lanes is far more complex than a rouge state that seems hellbent on total destruction.

China isn't a weak nation when it comes to projecting power in their region. While they are beginning to float a blue water Navy, their air force is the largest in the world. Chinese missile technology is extremely effective, and we may not know how well they could defend what they view as their home waters.

Not a light task

The United States is the only reason that South Korea exists, and it would appear that the political will of post WW2 nation building is about to be put to the test. North Korea is incessantly lobbing missiles into the sea, so the worry that seems to be popping up across Asia would appear to be well placed.

In many ways there is a power vacuum in Asia. China is clearly the military might that ensures security in the region, but they have been extremely mild in their actions thus far. Their willingness to move openly against the ruling party in North Korea is fascinating, as the regime in question embodies the core values that the Chinese Communist Party embraces.

A small issue

President Trump isn't prepared to deal with the situation in the South China Sea, and Rex Tillerson isn't either. The Spratly Islands were nothing until China began to develop them, but today this ever growing military outpost may lead to the first clash between the US and China in a very long time.

In a recent “freedom of navigation” exercise, the US Navy came close to violating the maritime border that China claims for its new islands, but thankfully there was not an open confrontation in disputed waters.

It would appear that for now cool heads are making wise decisions, but we have to wonder how long China will tolerate these sorts of provocations for. The results of an open conflict could be terrible, but we can't know how far either side will go.

Not business as usual

The sheer amount of capital stock that flows through The South China Sea is likely the reason that open combat hasn't erupted yet.

China would be the favorite in a military dispute in their home waters, though the US wouldn't be easy prey. The issue that continues to plague the Trump administration is how to manage the expectations of US hegemony in a changing world, while not losing face in the international arena.