Drama and Maneuver in the South China Sea: The US-China Standoff

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Exasperation with the FONOP was probably heightened by the fact that the PLA Navy had cleverly conducted its own “innocent passage” exercise through the territorial waters of the Aleutian Islands in September 2015, thereby diminishing the consequences of a close sailby of Subi Reef as a cathartic piece of defiance against PRC aggrandizement in the South China Sea.
A spate of articles appeared on the theme, per the article in the Lowy Interpreter, Innocent Passage: Did the US Just Fumble Its South China Sea Strategy?:
USNI News, Defense News and Graham Webster all recently noted that the USS Lassen was undertaking innocent passage when it sailed past Subi Reef on 27 October. This surprising revelation has not been officially confirmed but is understood to have been widely corroborated by sources in the US Navy, Department of Defence and Capitol Hill.
Responding to the furor, on November 9, 2015, almost two weeks after the seemingly triumphant sailby, Senator John McCain, a leading hawk on South China Sea matters, issued a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter querying:
Under the freedom of navigation programs, what excessive claim(s) was the Lassen operation intended to challenge?
Did the ship operate under the rules of innocent passage? If so, why?
If not, what specific action or actions were taken within twelve nautical miles of an artificial island to demonstrate that the ship was not conducting innocent passage?
Read more: http://japanfocus.org/-Peter-Lee/4412/article.html

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