What will it take to stop cycle of escalation in the South China Sea?

Amid mounting regional concerns about Beijing’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea, President Xi Jinping stood with President Barack Obama last September in the White House Rose Garden and vowed that China would not militarize its newly constructed outposts  in the Spratly Islands. But Xi was careful not to include Beijing’s Paracel Islands, in the north of the South China Sea.

China has now reportedly placed surface-to-air missiles on one of its Paracel outposts. While this act does not strictly contradict Xi’s commitment, it clearly violates its spirit.

This article was originally published in Reuters.