Why is the South China Sea important? At first look, the island group seems uninhabitable and worthless - but this observation would be grossly in error.
These islands sit on the edge of the most lucrative fishing area in the South China Sea. They are also on the edge of one of the most oil- and gas-rich areas yet discovered.
And the Spratlys are claimed by no less than six different countries.
"This is definitely a situation you want to watch closely," Money Morning Executive Editor Bill Patalon told readers on Dec. 8. "Any kind of a major 'incident' there will clearly have a big - and negative - impact on the world financial markets."