The waters around the South China Sea are roiling and its far from evident how they can be calmed. The recent four-day visit to China by U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice was aimed at recalibrating regional policy.

Dealing a major blow to Beijing's insistence that it has special rights to the South China Sea and in a victory for the Philippines, an international tribunal of judges decided that China's claims to the critical waterway are without legal merit. The ruling handed down by The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration in response to the complaint brought by the Philippines after the seizure of Scarborough Shoal by China in 2012 has set the stage for more tension in one of the world's flash points.

It will radically alter not only China's interaction with its Asian neighbors but with other major regional and global players such as the United States, Japan, Australia and India. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, but its claims are fiercely contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.