Freedom of navigation

By Raul (Pete) Pedrozo, United States Department of Defense Recent statements suggest that the United States will soon conduct freedom of navigation (FON) operations against China’s artificial formations in the […]

By Raul (Pete) Pedrozo, United States Department of Defense

Recent statements suggest that the United States will soon conduct freedom of navigation (FON) operations against China’s artificial formations in the South China Sea (SCS). But there is far more handwringing going on than necessary, as demonstrated in a recent East Asia Forum article in which Mark Valencia warns that proposed FON challenges are ‘ill-advised, and even dangerous’.

There are always risks associated with conducting FON operations. But in light of recent posturing by both sides, failure to conduct a FON in the vicinity of China’s manmade islands will cause irreparable harm to US strategic maritime mobility and credibility in the Asia Pacific.

Valencia correctly notes that China claims sovereignty over all the features in the SCS. But four other nations and Taiwan reject Beijing’s claim, which is not recognised by the United States or any other nation. Establishing maritime zones is a function of sovereignty over land territory. Under international law, a state may establish a 12 nautical mile territorial sea and the sovereignty of the state extends to the territorial sea and the airspace above it. If sovereignty over a feature is not established or recognised, it follows that any maritime zone claimed (which China is yet to do) for that feature is null and void.

Read more at East Asia Forum

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