Mark Collins – South China Sea: USN Freedom of Navigation Ops vs China–Plus Vietnam

Further to these posts,

US to Test China’s South China Sea Claims: How Much?

South China Sea and International Law: China, US and Australia

South China Sea: Eagle vs Dragon, Philippines Section (plus Vietnam)

the latest at Foreign Policy’s “Situation Report”:

U.S. Navy Buzzes Fake Chinese Island, Washington Readies Arms Sales to Vietnam

Sailing on. The guided missile destroyer the USS William P. Lawrence sailed within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-occupied Fiery Cross Reef on Tuesday, in another of a handful of recent freedom of navigation exercises meant to symbolically challenge Chinese claims to small, artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Beijing built the 700-acre artificial island, along with a 10,000-ft. runway, over the past year. That runway recently landed a Chinese warplane sent to pick up sick workers and bring them to the mainland, and the op comes just after a visit by Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, who became the most senior Chinese officer to visit one of China’s artificial islands. China also recently dispatched a popular military folk singer to entertain troops stationed on the island, for what it’s worth.

Not the first, not the last. In January, the Pentagon dispatched the USS Curtis Wilbur to cruise within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Islands, and back in October, the USS Lassen did the same to several contested rocks in the Spratlys.

Pentagon spokesman U.S. Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban said in a statement that the operation “challenged attempts by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam to restrict navigation rights around the features they claim, specifically that these three claimants purport to require prior permission or notification of transits through the territorial sea, contrary to international law.”

Word coming. By this summer, an international tribunal in The Hague is expected to rule for the first time on the validity of China’s territorial claims as it tries to fence off nearly the entire South China Sea for itself. FP’s Dan De Luce and Keith Johnson took a hard look at the issues earlier this year, noting the deployment of long-range, surface-to-air missiles to Woody Island has only underscored the importance of the pending court decision. Experts believe the tribunal likely will rule in favor of the Philippines, which brought the suit against Beijing, but no one is sure who will actually enforce it, or how.

Making friends, selling guns. The most recent passby by the Lawrence comes just before President Barack Obama is slated to land in Vietnam, where he’s expected to lift a ban on arms sales to the communist country. But human rights groups and some members of Congress are unhappy with the possibility, FP’s Dan De Luce and Keith Johnson tell us. And China isn’t too pleased, either, as it wages a series of highly-volatile disputes with Hanoi over islands in the South China Sea.

It’s complicated. “The step would carry crucial symbolism in the growing contest for influence between China and the United States in the Western Pacific,” FP’s duo writes. Yet the country’s human rights record is abysmal, and State Department officials have been pressing the country to free some political prisoners by time Obama touches down [from July 2015: “The US and Vietnam: Containing China Together? A Visit to Washington“]…

Meanwhile the Philippines have elected a really wild-card president. And there’s an important question about the US and the region:

South China Sea: Why is USN Admiral Leading on US Policy vs China?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


16 thoughts on “Mark Collins – South China Sea: USN Freedom of Navigation Ops vs China–Plus Vietnam”

    1. Dragon cyber spookery at work on arbitration decision?

      Mark Collins

  1. Oh oh:

    ‘China should prepare for ‘military confrontation’ in South China Sea, newspaper declares

    China should prepare itself for military confrontation in the South China Sea, an influential Chinese paper has reported, a week ahead of a decision by an international court on a dispute between China and the Philippines…

    In joint editorials in its Chinese and English editions, the state-run Global Times said the dispute, having already been complicated by US intervention, now faces further escalation due to the threat posed by the tribunal to China’s sovereignty.

    “Washington has deployed two carrier battle groups around the South China Sea, and it wants to send a signal by flexing its muscles: As the biggest powerhouse in the region, it awaits China’s obedience,” it said.

    China should speed up developing its military deterrence abilities, the paper added.

    “Even though China cannot keep up with the US militarily in the short-term, it should be able to let the US pay a cost it cannot stand if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force,” it said.

    “China hopes disputes can be resolved by talks, but it must be prepared for any military confrontation. This is common sense in international relations.”
    Before and after: South China Sea

    See how China is converting reefs to military facilities by building artificial islands in the South China Sea.

    The newspaper is published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, and while it is widely read in policy-making circles, it does not have the same mouthpiece function as its parent and its editorials cannot be viewed as representing government policy.

    It is also well-known for its extreme nationalist views…’

    Not unlike the Top Dragon’s?

    “Top Dragon Now More Powerful than Mao”

    Mark Collins

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