China’s capture of a U.S. underwater drone violates three norms embedded in international maritime law and reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other treaties.
Raul “Pete” Pedrozo is Deputy General Counsel for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA). Previously he was a Professor of International Law in the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College, where he now serves as a Non-Resident Scholar.
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While the unanimous landmark decision in the arbitration case between the Philippines and China deals a death knell to China’s infamous nine dash line, the international community should not lose sight of the fact that Beijing’s indefensible claims in the South China Sea are but one part of a concerted effort to change the status quo and alter the rules-based legal order that has governed the world’s oceans for centuries.
The US and China have agreed to rules of behavior for safety of air-to-air encounters of military aircraft. The deal is supposed to avert aviation incidents in international airspace, but rather than help the US, it is merely another plank in China's unremitting campaign of lawfare.
The past two FON operations in the South China Sea are models in how to squander flawless operational execution with confused, inconsistent, and ultimately damaging messaging.