Navy Braces for New Challenges Against China’s Claims

From 2012 to 2015 the Obama administration would not allow the United States Navy to conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea. This allowed China to begin and complete its island building projects and begin to squeeze off the area. The South China Sea carries a large percentage of the world’s trade. Now the Trump administration has to walk this back somehow.

As Written By David B. Larter for the Navy Times:

This article was originally posted Feb. 12 at 12:01 a.m. and has been updated.

U.S. Navy and Pacific Command leaders want to ratchet up potentially provocative operations in the South China Sea by sailing more warships near the increasingly militarized man-made islands that China claims as sovereign territory, according to several Navy officials.

The freedom of navigation operations, also known as FONOPS, could be carried out by ships with the San Diego-based Carl Vinson carrier strike group, which is in the Pacific Ocean heading toward the South China Sea, according to three defense officials who spoke to Navy Times on condition of anonymity to discuss operations in the planning phase.

The military’s plans likely call for sailing within 12 nautical miles of China’s newly built islands in the Spratly and/or Paracel islands, a move that would amount to a new challenge to Chinese maritime claims there that has raised tensions between Washington and Beijing in the recent past.

The plans are heading up the chain of command for approval by President Donald Trump, and set the stage for a transnational guessing game about what the Trump administration wants its Asia policy to be.

For years, the Obama administration curtailed the Navy’s operations around contested areas like the Spratly Islands, an archipelago of uninhabited islands and reefs that China his built up in recent years. China has installed military-grade runways on the islands and could deploy surface-to-air weaponry.

U.S. Navy leaders believe that the FONOPS help clarify rights under international law and secure U.S. influence in the region. China, however, views the U.S. operations there as a provocative challenge to Beijing’s effort to claim the constructions as territory and the fishing rights and any oil or natural gas reserves in the surrounding waters.

“The Trump administration has to decide what it wants to achieve,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for…


The Navy is planning fresh challenges to China’s claims in the South China Sea

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