U.S. warship drill meant to defy China’s claim over artificial island –officials


The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey prepares for a replenishment-at-sea in the South China Sea May 19, 2017. Picture taken May 19, 2017. Kryzentia Weiermann/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

By Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON Thu May 25, 2017 | 4:04pm EDT

A U.S. warship carried out a “maneuvering drill” when it sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, to show Beijing it was not entitled to a territorial sea around it, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The operation near Mischief Reef on Thursday, Pacific time, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has disputes with its neighbors, was the boldest U.S. challenge yet to Chinese island-building in the strategic waterway.

It drew an angry response from China, which President Donald Trump has tried to court in recent weeks to persuade it to take a tougher line on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. [nL1N1IQ2FH]

Analysts say previous U.S. “freedom-of-navigation operations” in the Spratly archipelago involved “innocent passage,” in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily, without stopping.

On Thursday, the destroyer USS Dewey conducted a “man overboard” exercise, specifically to show that its passage within 12 nautical miles was not innocent passage, U.S. officials said.

“USS Dewey engaged in normal operations by conducting a maneuvering drill inside 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The ship’s actions demonstrated that Mischief Reef is not entitled to its own territorial sea regardless of whether an artificial island has been built on top of it.”

It drew an angry response from China, which President Donald Trump has tried to court in recent weeks to persuade it to take a tougher line on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. [nL1N1IQ2FH]

Analysts say previous U.S. “freedom-of-navigation operations” in the Spratly archipelago involved “innocent passage,” in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily, without stopping.

On Thursday, the destroyer USS Dewey conducted a “man overboard” exercise, specifically to show that its passage within 12 nautical miles was not innocent passage, U.S. officials said.

“USS Dewey engaged in normal operations by conducting a maneuvering drill inside 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The ship’s actions demonstrated that Mischief Reef is not entitled to its own territorial sea regardless of whether an artificial island has been built on top of it.”

Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said that freedom of navigation operations are not specific to one country and the Defense Department would release summaries of these operations in an annual report and not sooner.

“We are continuing regular FONOPS, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” Ross said, using an acronym for freedom of navigation operations.

The Pentagon has not confirmed the most recent operation.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea and Washington has criticized its construction of islands and build-up of military facilities there, concerned they could be used to restrict free movement and broaden Beijing’s strategic reach.

U.S. allies and partners in the region had grown anxious as the Trump administration held off on carrying out South China Sea operations during its first few months in office.

Greg Poling of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said that under international law, Mischief Reef was not entitled to a territorial sea as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China.

“This was a statement to the Chinese,” he said.

“The previous two freedom-of-navigation operations only challenged China’s demand for prior notification for innocent passage through the territorial sea; this one asserted that there is no territorial sea at all.”

The Trump administration vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations after President Barack Obama was criticized for potentially reinforcing China’s claims by sticking to innocent passage.

Even so, this was the first freedom-of-navigation operation since October and since Trump took office in January.

It comes ahead of a visit to Singapore next week by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss security with regional counterparts.

Beijing said two Chinese guided-missile warships had warned the U.S. vessel to leave the waters and that it had lodged “stern representations” with the United States.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish and Marguerita Choy)

Source: Reuters “U.S. warship drill meant to defy China’s claim over artificial island –officials”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


5 Comments on “U.S. warship drill meant to defy China’s claim over artificial island –officials”

  1. […] and Poking with Ships  “U.S. warship drill meant to defy China’s claim over artificial island –officials” – “Timid US FON (Freedom of Navigation) Operation Not Affects China’s Control of […]

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  2. Gon says:

    First thought is how reliable or credible is the statement that the USN perform a man-overboard routine. More fake news for American domestic and international consumption with consent from Beijing as part of U.S.’s theatrics, “kabuki”, or if you like, BS. It probably never happened.

    Second, if it did happened, it is Washington’s idea of an insult to Beijing; They as a challenging young lion pissing on China’s territory to mark it as its own as an insult and challenge the pride’s alpha male. If Beijing pre-agreed to this, they are a bunch of bl**dy fools; Whether it actually happened or not, it’s a pie in Beijing’s face. It’s a statement you do not accept or ever agree to.

    For in nature, if you piss on another’s territory, you are just waiting to be attacked and mauled and scarred for life. Young or not so young lions should be very careful in this matter. It could end up badly for them or even as a matter of life and death. Thus they need to make their caculations carefully; Not just act according to your hormones surge.

    Whatever, even if it is an arranged “kabuki”, if Beijing accept the statement by the USN that they conducted a “man-overboard” within the 12-mile limit, they look the looser and not a winner; Like fools and wimps in fact when the bully Washington “kicked sand” in their face.

    Which is what the arrogant U.S want. Is this how Beijing conducts foreign policy?

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  3. Steve says:

    Absolute rubbish – it’s Fakedom of navigation not Freedom of navigation.

    But, did old head Trump seek President Xi’s understanding for this FON.? Trump’s rating is now below 50% at an all time low. This fake FON pleased US western allies. Economically, EU is incompetent for a longtime, US tied down with it’s protectionism policy, US naval operations has being frustrated at lack of response from Obama and now Trump. Other than wasting taxpayers money, there is nothing to gain except pushing China to militarise the SCS.

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  4. johnleecan says:

    And it took years for American government to come up with this cowardice idea!

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  5. johnleecan says:

    Man overboard will be made an excuse by American government by stating their men accidentally fell off their ship if China attacks American ship. But Chinese navy sent two frigates to expel American ships and no untoward incidents happened. American government then said they use man overboard exercise to show China it doesn’t own Nansha islands.

    We want American navy to use military drills in China’s territory – you sissy coward American chicken!

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