US Timid, Stupid Freedom of Navigation Operation in South China Sea

In its report “U.S. destroyer challenges China’s claims in South China Sea” yesterday, Reuters tries to make believe that a US destroyer’s freedom of navigation operation within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial island on Mischief reef was US challenge to China’s claims in South China Sea.

The US certainly wishes to challenge, but dare not challenge openly. Reuters says in its report that the officials who told Reuters about the operation spoke on condition of anonymity. China’s foreign ministry protested openly, but Reuters says in its report, “The Pentagon declined to provide any details but said that all operations are conducted in accordance with international law.” The US does not even admit that it has conducted the challenge. Poor America.

However, the operation gives China the excuse to deploy “defensive” weapons on its artificial islands, but lots of defensive weapons can also be used for attack. It is militarization with the excuse of preventing attack from US warships that sail near China’s islands so that China cannot be said to be militarizing its islands. US operation benefits China as China certainly wishes to militarize the artificial islands for defense against US attack.

However, sending warships near Chinese islands give China grounds to oppose the militarization of the South China Sea by the US. It enables China and ASEAN to agree to include a clause on non-militarization of the South China Sea in the code of conduct they are drafting.

Do you see any wisdom or courage in US operation?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text is reblogged below:

U.S. destroyer challenges China’s claims in South China Sea

Idrees Ali August 10, 2017 / 4:57 PM / an hour ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy destroyer carried out a “freedom of navigation operation” on Thursday, coming within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The operation came as President Donald Trump’s administration seeks Chinese cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and could complicate efforts to secure a common stance.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS John S. McCain traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals. China has territorial disputes with its neighbors over the area.

It was the third “freedom of navigation operation” during Trump’s presidency.

Thursday’s operation, first reported by Reuters, was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, and comes as Trump is seeking China’s cooperation to rein in North Korea.
China’s Defense Ministry said two Chinese warships “jumped into action” and warned the U.S. ship to leave, labeling the move a “provocation” that seriously harms mutual trust.

“China is resolutely opposed to this kind of show of force and pushing of regional militarization by the U.S. that may easily cause an unexpected incident at sea or in the air,” it said in a statement.

China’s foreign ministry said the operation had violated international and Chinese law and seriously harmed Beijing’s sovereignty and security.

“China is very displeased with this and will bring up the issue with the U.S. side,” the ministry said in a statement.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

Twelve nautical miles marks the territorial limits recognized internationally. Sailing within those 12 miles is meant to show that the United States does not recognize territorial claims there. (This blogger’s note: It is Reuters’ view. The US has never said so.)

The United States has said that it would like to see more international participation in freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and they are separate from political considerations. (This blogger’s note: See US military regards the operation as separate from political consideration!)

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

In July, a U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam.

Experts and officials have criticized former President Barack Obama for potentially reinforcing China’s claims by sticking to innocent passage, in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily without stopping.

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.

The Pentagon declined to provide any details but said that all operations are conducted in accordance with international law. (This blogger’s note: Though the Pentagon wants to challenge China, it dare not admit that the operation was a challenge. Poor America!)

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen recently after North Korea carried out two nuclear tests last year and two ICBM tests last month, prompting a strong round of U.N. sanctions. That angered Pyongyang which has threatened to teach the United States a “severe lesson”.

Trump responded by warning North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it further threatened the United States.

For a graphic on turf war on the South China sea, click: here

Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Lee Chyen Yee in Singapore; Editing by Alistair Bell and Richard Pullin


12 Comments on “US Timid, Stupid Freedom of Navigation Operation in South China Sea”

  1. Tyler reber says:

    Seems like freedom of navigation is just a pathetic excuse to militarize. The real reason is it’s paranoid about technological development of anyone. Iran ‘capability’ as the US put, had American power itching for war, perhaps would have if not engaged in facilitating a complicated conflict in Syria. North Korean missiles has US officials using the mightiest of stern looks and fist shaking.

    Chinese technology have the caught the US unprepared for such rapid and unbelievable development, most likely Hu Jin Tao’s technology development initiative in the early 2000’s, while the left the US unprepared occupied by it’s middle eastern wars since 2001. I think the 2011 story where US intelligence was left believing china was 10 years from developing a 5th gen fighter seen j-20 flying a few months later. I forget the specifics.

    Is obama’s 2012 containing china policy comes only 1 year after they realized China was atleast 10 years more advanced than they imagined. The US was 10 years late in preparing for China’s economic and political turmoil.

    Now the US must resort to absurd ideaologies and principles like the freedom of navigation that mostly instills doubt into US commitment to peace and stability, because tensions and war happen to be where the US had went.


  2. Steve says:

    The United Scoundrels of America are performing Freedom of Nonsense (FON)…The US are now a scary cat, easily frightened and terrified of being chased by China’s formidable warships.

    China should just build gigantic ‘American Scarecrow floating buoys’ like the ones used in the Mississippi corn fields except its huge and position the halloween Scary Crows at 12nm from China’s islands with a built in camera. This should be enough to scare the scoundrels out of their wits especially on a dim moonlight night. The camera live images can be shown on TV, how the sneaky scoundrels sneak in and sneak out or better still been chased away by China’s warships.

    President Duterte is probably laughing at the comical US and glad he is pivoting to Uncle Han. When China was engineering those islands the US did nothing to stop the construction. Instead the silly scoundrels are now performing Freedom of Nonsense when China has already established it’s objectives.


    • Najee says:

      What about this situation on the China – India border? India seems to be ignoring Chinese attempts to solve the problem peacefully.


      • Steve says:

        Strategy is of utmost importance before war. India cannot keep on ignoring the Sino India and British treaty that Doklam area belongs to China. Bhutan has already confirmed that the land is not part of Bhutan, neither is it India’s. India’s intrusion is illegal. China’s ownership is recognised internationally. China now has overwhelming support. The cost of war and human lives are huge. Once the dogs of war is released, it’s very difficult to pull back. China should try its utmost to avoid war, but will provide a brief to the UN and legal authority for war, only after All channels of communication are exhausted.


  3. Simon says:

    Pentagon not providing detail is more akin to FONOP.
    China could prevent American warship sailing within 12nm of its islands if it want to. The fact China waited until American warship crosses the 12nm suggest China allowed the provocation to happen as an excuse to militarise their islands and use it as a bargaining chip against Trump over N Korea.


  4. Fre Okin says:

    Technically US can do FON based on Mischief Reef not high tide elevation per UNCLOS. If China want to contest this is not factual, China need to find evidence pre artificial island conversion.

    Due to global warming and erosion of the fragile reefs due to a strong hurricane and I dare say intentional removal of high tide elevation feature by PH like doing the Ayunjing/Renai Reef Sierra Madre deliberate grounding, it is very possible there Was High Tide Elevation WHEN UNCLOS was signed decades ago. Just One rock protruding One Feet above sea level is enough to debunk US high tide elevation excuse to do FON.

    China need to Hunt for this evidence to Show US she do not have 12 NM FON privilege.

    Anyway, US State Department have smartened up and not publicize each FON so as not to annoy China. I am sure China just make a customary protest but the whole FON is really no big deal. China will have the last laugh if there is a sandbar somewhere and US navy run aground. Chances of this happening could be quite high based on previous groundings of Chinese frigate at Half Moon Bay and US navy Guardian near PH Tubbahata Reef a few years ago.


    • alking1957 says:

      Since china can build artificial islands, she may as well build bunch od artificial submerged sandbars around those island for these ships to run into!


    • Simon says:

      The whole point of American intruding 12nm within Chinese islands is to annoy China and make that public. The refusal to admit is a waste of money and purpose. More likely because it is just a FONOP like that conducted under Obama and was chased away by Chinese warships that is too embarrassing to give details about.


      • Fre Okin says:

        Nope, let’s be honest here. US had conducted FONOPs for a very long time all over the world, so US is not deliberately targeting China.

        What is new is the greater publicity US do to ‘save face’ because now China make her look weak if she don’t.

        So US doing FONOP is not intended to annoy China but to Continue what she had always been doing. It is important not to misread US behavior.

        By not publicizing FONOP in the future on a daily basis, this is consistent with what she did before and this is good. Make it a non news event!

        The U.S. Department of State writes:
        U.S. policy since 1983 provides that the United States will exercise and assert its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests reflected in the Law of the Sea (LOS) Convention. The United States will not, however, acquiesce in unilateral acts of other states designed to restrict the rights and freedoms of the international community in navigation and overflight and other related high seas uses. The FON Program since 1979 has highlighted the navigation provisions of the LOS Convention to further the recognition of the vital national need to protect maritime rights throughout the world.


        • Simon says:

          Before is not now. SCS is fast becomming China’s domain. Recent American FONOP is to show to the regional claimants and the world China does not have rightful claims. Failure to disclose FONOP by America in this day and age of Chinese control of SCS is an admission that the American is conducting innocent passage respecting Chinese control of their islands which is not what the Pentagon want the world media to report about. The reality is Chinese navy harrassed, rader jammed, possibly even hot targeting American warships and the Americans cant do anything except leave in disgrace. In that situation they will not report it.
          Trump is theatre, he is doing nothing more than what Obama is doing.


  5. Joseph says:

    FONOP? So soon after USS Strenhem begging the shadowing Chinese navy to searching drunk seaman overboard? SAR may be more appropriate. Or perhaps the American finds him hiding on the engine room too my like his pals.
    It may be that John McCain flew the SCS on commercial airline and joking to Reuters that USS John McCain went to cross the SCS. The next time Donald Trump go to China, Reuters would report that USS Donald Trump is doing FONOP in China. Why does Reuters just reports both men dead, so the American can have two more idiots for their ship’s name.


  6. Joseph says:

    Last time Trump threatened North Korea, he confusedly ordered his carrier ‘battlegroup’ to Indonesia instead. One should wonder since this carrier was ‘challenging’ China in the SCS, was it actually scared to face North Korea or China. Now with Trump is threatening North Korea with ‘fire and fury’, Argentina or South Africa should be concerned. Who knows the American may confused them with North Korea.