2019 Saw a Record Number of Imperial Navy “FONOPs” Provocations in the South China Sea
US claims to be sailing to defend the UNCLOS convention it has not itself ratified and does not subject itself to
The U.S. Navy conducted more freedom of navigation operations in 2019 than in any year since the U.S. began more aggressively challenging China’s claims in the South China Sea in 2015.
The Navy conducted seven FONOPs in the South China Sea last year, according to records provided by U.S. Pacific Fleet. The FONOPs are designed to challenge China’s claim to maritime rights and dominion over several island chains in the region, which have put the U.S. and its allies at loggerheads with China.
Patrols by U.S. warships come within 12 miles of features claimed by China, including features that the Asian nation has converted into military installations. The patrols are meant to signal that the U.S. considers the claims excessive. China views the patrols as irritating and unlawful intrusions into its waters.
So far the FONOPs have not caused China to back down on its claims.
The Obama administration authorized two FONOPs in 2015 and three in 2016. The program has escalated under the Trump administration, with the Navy conducting six in 2017 and five in 2018.
However, during Trump’s first two years in office, Navy transits of the Taiwan Strait dropped precipitously from 12 in 2016 to five in 2017, then just three in 2018. The Taiwan Strait transits picked up again in 2019, with nine transits conducted through the year.
In a statement, Pacific Fleet spokesperson Lt. J.G. Rachel McMarr said the Navy was committed to continuing to demonstrate its willingness to challenge excessive claims.
“U.S. forces routinely conduct freedom of navigation assertions throughout the world,” McMarr said in a statement. “All of our operations are designed to be conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows — regardless of the location of excessive maritime claims and regardless of current events.”
Source: Defense News