Taiwanese President-Elect Tsai Ing-wen during final campaign rally in Taipei (Photo: Reuters)
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Chinese civilian aircraft lands at newly-constructed runway on Fiery Cross Reef (Photo: Reuters)
Editor's Note: Welcome back to Water Wars! Following our holiday hiatus, this first edition of the new year will look back at the major events in the Asian Pacific since our last post in late November. Next Friday, we’ll be back to our normal format, with a more detailed and nuanced analysis and commentary of the week's events.
By week’s end, the major players in the South and East China Sea will have participated in three separate international conferences touching on tensions in the Asian-Pacific. The meetings include the G-20 summit in Turkey, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in the Philippines, and the ASEAN Summit in Malaysia.
Xi Jinping and Nguyen Phu Trong in Hanoi (Photo: Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images)
Chinese jets release flares over a PLA vessel near the Spratlys (Photo: China Daily/Reuters)
After the U.S.S. Lassen’s freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Spratly Islands last week, we wrote that the Lassen and the accompanying P-8 Poseidon aircraft appeared to have conducted normal military operations inside 12 nm around Subi Reef. That was important because normal military operations are not “innocent passage,” a demonstrably nonthreatening mode of transiting another nation’s territorial seas.
The past few days have witnessed two huge developments in the South China Sea. On Tuesday, the U.S. Navy conducted a long-anticipated freedom of navigation (FON) patrol in the Spratly Islands. Two days later, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the Philippines v. PRC maritime case. Given the magnitude of the arbitral decision and U.S. FONOPS, this week’s post will focus exclusively on these two events.
Aerial photo of Chinese land reclamation in the Spratly Islands (Photo: AP)
Littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth patrols near the Spratlys (Photo: MC2 Conor Minto/U.S. Navy)