Why US FON Operations in the South China Sea Make Sense

The U.S. Navy’s Freedom of Navigation Program is an important expression of international law. By Cmdr. Jonathan G. Odom The U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program has recently drawn significant attention in […]

The U.S. Navy’s Freedom of Navigation Program is an important expression of international law.

By Cmdr. Jonathan G. Odom

The U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program has recently drawn significant attention in the United States and the international community. During this period of focused attention, some observers have questioned the legality of U.S. FONOPs. This author has previously outlined the legality and legitimacy of the U.S. FON Program, including FONOPs conducted as part of that program. Other observers have also questioned the appropriateness and wisdom of U.S. FONOPs, particularly in the South China Sea. A prime example would be a recent critique by Dr. Sam Bateman of Australia, in which he alleged that U.S. FONOPs in the South China Sea “don’t make sense.” This followed a similar piece that he published in June 2015. Although Dr. Bateman asks some valid questions about the ongoing South China Sea situation, he makes incorrect assumptions on several points about U.S. FONOPs and misses the mark on several others. Below is an attempt to set the record straight on the matter, based upon this author’s prior experience with the U.S. FON Program at the operational, theater, and policy levels of the U.S. military. 

Read more at The Diplomat