British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson recently announced that the Royal Navy would be conducting a South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) after its visit to Australia later this year. His statement also contained a rare full-throated specific endorsement of U.S. FONOPs in the region. “We absolutely support the U.S. approach on this, we very much support what the U.S.
Latest in Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP)
Satellite photograph showing Chinese ships near Thitu (Pag-asa) Island (Photo: AMTI)
(Photo: US Navy)
On May 24, the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) operated within 12 nautical miles (nm) of Mischief Reef, a disputed feature in the South China Sea (SCS) controlled by the People’s Republic of China, but also claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The Dewey’s action evidently challenged China’s right to control maritime zones adjacent to the reef —which was declared by the South China Sea arbitration to be nothing more than a low tide elevation on the Philippine continental shelf.
Reuters reports that on May 24 the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) transited within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, a feature in the South China Sea occupied by China.
The US Conducts the First South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operation of the Trump Era, But It Was “Off the Record”
Has the Trump Administration authorized its first “freedom of navigation operation” (“FONOP”) in the South China Sea? Maybe. According to news reports quoting unnamed U.S. government officials, the USS Dewey, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese artificial island constructed on Mischief Reef in the South China Sea.
U.S. Defense Department Confirms USS Decatur Did Not Follow Innocent Passage and Challenged China’s Excessive Straight Baselines
In my analysis of the USS Decatur’s freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near the China-occupied Paracel Islands last month, I wrote that the FONOP “probably” did not follow innocent passage and “most likely” challenged China’s excessive straight baselines. I hedged my language on both points a little because the initial US government statement called the passage “routine” and did not mention straight baselines.
There are limited details about the recent U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) operation in the South China Sea on October 21, but by any account it surely did not achieve what some had advocated: challenging China’s installations on artificial land in the Spratly Islands.
President Duterte and Prime Minister Abe meet in Tokyo (Photo: Reuters)