History is change. Unless the United States does something radically different or unless the Chinese miracle of operating a booming economy in a repressive society implodes, the question is when China will surpass us economically. Not whether.
Can a state remain a party to a treaty or convention without being bound by its rules? Can contracting states adhere to an international legal regime and simultaneously opt out of any binding force required or to be required by that regime?
The message to China is simple: The South China Sea is not China's bathtub to do as it pleases. China must decide whether it wishes to maintain an antagonistic approach to territorial claims outside its legal and territorial reach.