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The good, bad and downright ugly aspects of US naval operations in the South China Sea

2016-02-14 21:47:59       source:South China Morning Post

"The US has undertaken two recent 'freedom of navigation' operations using formidable Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers to challenge what it considers illegal claims in the South China Sea. One was by the USS Lassen last October 27, which sailed within 12 nautical miles of the formerly submerged Subi Reef in the Spratlys. The most recent was on January 30 by the USS Curtis Wilbur, which sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels.

According to the US Department of Defence this operation 'challenged attempts by the three claimants, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features ... The excessive claims regarding Triton Island are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention ... No claimants were notified prior to the transit which is consistent with our normal process and international law.'

There will be more operations – indeed they may become a regular feature of the US naval presence in the region. But they are controversial. These two were verbally supported by US friends and allies – and ardently opposed by China, which claims and occupies these features. Indeed, these operations have good, bad and downright ugly aspects and implications."

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Mark J. Valencia is an adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China