In the next 18 hours, the USS Lassen will make passage within 12 nautical miles of the fake islands China constructed at Subi Reef and Mischief Reef.
How will China react?
Will she make a stand or just fade away nary a whimper, just like all bullies confronted by a much superior force?
This is all up to Xi Jinping. If he thinks he can survive the political fallout from this humiliation, he will order his minions to stand down. But if not, he will reach for the trigger.
The second option is not that remote of a possibility. There are signs that all is not rosy in Xi Jinping Land. The Chinese military establishment is starting to grumble at the heavy-handed manner Xi has been disposing of his perceived rivals under the moral cloak of an anti-corruption crusade. The humiliation the PLA will suffer at the hands of the USS Lassen will just might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.
But regardless which option Xi Jinping decides to take, the place in history of the USS Lassen and her crew is already assured.
Godspeed boys! We are very proud of you!