More FONOPs are coming–and China won’t like it one bit.
The US military may again conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea this year as part of an ongoing strategic effort to challenge what it describes as China’s “excessive maritime claims” in the region, Pentagon officials said.
While Pentagon officials naturally did not offer any specifics regarding operations or current considerations about whether US Navy ships will again sail within the 12-mile territorial boundaries of islands claimed by China, they were clear say it is indeed a realistic possibility.
“We are continuing regular FONOPS (Freedom of Navigation Operations), as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, Pentagon spokesman, told Warrior Maven in a statement.
Longstanding tensions between the US and China regarding conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea have, in light of North Korea and other global developments, lingered a bit beneath the radar. However, while not center stage at the moment, tensions surrounding the region have not seemed to diminish but rather take on newer focus as Defense Secretary James Mattis makes his trip to Asia.
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China is expected to figure prominently in discussions throughout Asia as Mattis seeks to solicit more Chinese help regarding North Korea. These efforts stand within a broader context of complexity between the US and China; there has been cooperation and some shared military exercises, however there is concurrently mounting tension and military rivalry as China modernizes rapidly.