Stand-off in the South China Sea


On Oct 27, the US Navy destroyer Lassen conducted a freedom of navigation (FON) operation in the South China Sea within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island reclaimed by China on the Subi Reef. The United States took this action in order to defy China’s claim that foreign vessels must obtain permission from the Chinese government to navigate in these waters.

The US demonstrated a strong resolve to preclude any counter actions that China could effectively take. The Lassen was equipped with a powerful Aegis radar system and anti-air guided missiles, and was accompanied by a P-8A Poseidon and a P-3 Orion patrol aircraft capable of tracking down surface vessels and submarines. The patrol aircraft provided protection and reportedly took record of the operation.

After the action was taken, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said that the US had conducted the FON operation as part of a larger effort to achieve three strategic goals: First, to demonstrate its determination to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows; second, to convey the message that the militarisation in the South China Sea must be halted and the disputes resolved peacefully; and finally, to strengthen cooperation with US allies and partners in the maritime domain.

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