US Continues Global Operations Under Freedom of Navigation

The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis participates in a replenishment at sea with the fast combat support ship USNS Rainier and the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay in the South China Sea, March 4, 2016

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Washington, DC – The United States on Monday (April 25) released its annual report about operations challenging “excessive maritime claims asserted by 13 claimants throughout the world.”

In its 2015 fiscal year Freedom of Navigation (FON) Report, the US Department of Defense (DoD) said it exercised its right of freedom of navigation multiple times against China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, the Philippines and Vietnam. The report summarizes operations by US forces from October 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015.

Without going into details, the two-page report noted that the US military carried out single operations against Argentina, Nicaragua and Taiwan.

“Prior consent required for military exercises or maneuvers in the EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” the Pentagon report in one line comment said on India, “designates multiple challenges to the claim(s) during the reporting period.”

On China, the listed excessive maritime claims included excessive straight baselines; jurisdiction over airspace above the EEZ, restriction on foreign aircraft flying through an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) without the intent to enter national airspace; domestic law criminalizing survey activity by foreign entities in the EEZ; and prior permission required for innocent passage of foreign military ships through the territorial seas (TTS).

Philippines got mentioned for claiming, “archipelagic waters as internal waters.”

While countries including China do protest such exercises as unnecessary, the Pentagon in its report said the freedom of navigation operations are conducted around the world, “to preserve the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.”

In 2014, the US had challenged territorial claims of 19 countries including India, China and Sri Lanka, which escaped scrutiny this year.

The Freedom of Navigation operations are based on the President’s United States Oceans Policy Statement of March 10, 1983, which states “The United States will exercise and assert its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms in a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea 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.”

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