The United States has significantly accelerated the pace of it freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea. Last year it conducted four such operations in the span of five months. This contrasts with the four FONOPs conducted during President Barack Obama’s entire second term.
On January 17, the USS Hopper, a U.S. Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer, conducted the first FONOPs of 2018. This one occurred near Scarborough Shoal, much farther north than the previous operations. Like those earlier FONOPs, it rapidly drew a rebuke from the People’s Republic of China.
China’s Defense Ministry spokesman declared that the repeated “illegal” entry (feifa jinru; 非法进入) of American warships to Chinese island groupings and maritime regions in the South China Sea endangered both sides. He condemned the operations as a threat to Chinese sovereignty and security and said they disrupted regional security and stability.