From the lagoon, the contour of the land is visable on August 15, 2018, in Funafuti, Tuvalu.
(FIONA GOODALL/Getty Images for Lumix)
James Michener called the Pacific Ocean "the meeting ground for Asia and America," a world of endless ocean and "infinite specks of coral" that form a highway between east and west. The gradual emergence of the United States as the premier Pacific power, cemented in the wake of World War II and the subsequent Cold War, involved the establishment of footholds on these vital stepping stones. Today, these footholds remain -- either as sovereign U.S.-held territories or freely associated states -- but the end of the Cold War reduced these lands' importance to the United States. With China rising and great power competition heating up, these islands have gained renewed strategic prominence. Beijing's maritime ambitions center first and foremost on the first island chain that runs from the Kurils to Borneo, but the second island chain from Japan south to the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Micronesia, Palau and Papua New...
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