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U.S. Warship Conducts South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operation

Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) operates in the South China Sea on Oct. 13, 2016

Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) operates in the South China Sea on Oct. 13, 2016

A U.S. warship has conducted a freedom of navigation operation near Chinese holdings in the South China Sea, a U.S. defense official confirmed to USNI News.

USS Decatur (DDG-73) conducted the operation near Chinese holdings near Triton and Woody Islands in the Paracel Island chain off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea.

“USS Decatur (DDG-73) conducted this transit in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident on Oct. 21… specifically in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, to uphold the rights and freedoms of all States under international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” read a statement from Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross.
“The United States conducts these routine operations on a regular basis around the world, in full compliance with international law.”

The operation was first reported by newswire Reuters. Three Chinese ships shadowed Decatur, according to the wire.

The guided missile destroyer did not come within the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of either island but tested a claim that a baseline around the Paracels is Chinese territorial waters – a stance that is not recognized by international law.

“This transit appears to be an excellent challenge to China’s unlawful straight baselines around the Paracel Islands. There was no need in this case to transit within 12 nm of any individual island because China claims illegal straight baselines that encircle the entire island group,” James Kraska, a professor of international law, oceans law and policy at the U.S. Naval War College’s Stockton Center for the Study of International Law told USNI News on Friday.
“The Decatur’s surface operations in this instance provides an unambiguous legal record that China’s purported straight baselines are not valid.”

Friday’s operation is the first freedom of navigation operation the U.S. has conducted in the South China Sea since May. Then USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110) conducted a freedom of navigation operation past the Chinese installation on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Island chain.

In January, USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) came within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese installation on Triton Island. In late October in 2015, USS Lassen (DDG-84) conducted a FON op past the Chinese artificial holding on Subi Reef in the Spratlys.

Decatur is part of a San Diego-based surface action group that left in April made up of guided missiles destroyers USS Spruance (DDG-111) and USS Momsen (DDG-92). Earlier this month the ship was operating with Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group.

 

 

 

 

  • RebelSoldier

    The South China Sea. The international court in the Hague threw out China’s legal rights to the sea, and it’s resources, which are claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines because of their proximity to it. But is it OUR JOB to carry this baggage for everyone. WE are nowhere near the South China Sea. And after listening to the Philippine leader in Peking kowtowing while insulting the USA it makes me much less inclined to care about the South China Sea. I think the president wanted to send this message today because of that rant by the hair dye job, 71 year old Philippine president/thug. While normally a fan of Obama’s coolness, (supporting the Saudis et al in Syria against Assad and against the new government of Yemen being major exceptions) I think this sends the wrong signal. We should ignore the leaders of former client states when they turn on us. It’s called giving them the cold shoulder and is much more effective. Obviously Washington is more strung up with Manila than it needs/should be. Let our former colony find it’s own place in the world. Their only asset for export are people and we have plenty already, We don’t need every sea on Earth to be policed by our navy and air force. My suggestion to the president and to Clinton when she replaces him is; no face time for the Philippine leader. We’re “not mad, we’re just too busy”. And pull out of those miserable bases over there. Let the Philippines protect themselves. And I mean that literally. If China invaded Vietnam we would do nothing. The same should be true for the Philippines. It’s not as if we didn’t have our hands full in the Near East! We are becoming the British Empire of 1939, a thin red line around the world with budget constraints that are going to hit out armies and navies overseas like a hammer in another decade. All things being equal.

    • Curtis Conway

      Yes it is our job. Ever since we dropped the bomb in 1945 it has been our job, bu that is not why we do it. We are the only nation (with the exception of perhaps Israel) whose culture, laws and sentiment is built upon the structure of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (we are a Christian Nation), and we have been doing it since 1945. If this explanation is not sufficient for you, then conduct a Google search for “unified combatant commands cocom”. If you do not understand that, then . . . I can’t help you, and neither can anyone else!

      • RebelSoldier

        Just because our military divided up the planet and gave a piece of it to different US military outfits doesn’t make me think of the Golden Rule in any way. You seem to be confusing a religious proscription with US military doctrine. Which comes across to me as extremely creepy and out of place. And if you love Israel so much why don’t you move there. They’ve got plenty of free land that can be ethnically cleansed for your subsidized housing. But if you are not Jewish you don’t get those freebies. But you can easily make a living as a shill writing for and about their apartheid regime. They’d pay you with US tax dollars!

        • Curtis Conway

          You sir sound like a Modern Day Democrat. Lack of empathy for our neighbors, and not honoring the sacrifices of those who have gone before to free the oppressed of the planet is what the mission of the United States has been since our creation, and we have done the best we can to make G-d proud . . . until lately, with the attitude expressed above.

          • RebelSoldier

            imperialist mad dog crappola. The job of the USA as one of our presidents said a century ago “is business”. We did not free anyone from the British, French, Dutch, Belgian or Portuguese empires. Those empires all fell from their own weight after WWII. We helped to drive the Germans out of France and Italy but that’s because Japan bombed us and 3 days later Germany and Italy declared war on us. You sound like a wacko without enough book learning. We certainly haven’t freed the Vietnamese, the Cambodians, the Iraqis or Libyans and we’re still up to our necks in some of those wars. South Korea and Kuwait we honestly freed not that the Kuwaitis appear very grateful. WE are not God’s sword. Thinking like that is weird. Christ would never have led an army but he has been a comfort to men in combat on all sides in any European war. The Germans and Italians and Russians all pray to the same Savior we pray to. But politicians use religious propaganda and armies to do very un-Christian things. Modern day Democrat? If Trump wasn’t such a vulgar pig he’d have had my vote in a second. Hillary makes me barf. I may still vote for Trump but this isn’t a battleground state so it doesn’t matter who I vote for. But Trump isn’t really a Republican, he’s a populist. A party I would gladly own up to. Populists are against blowing all our cash in overseas messes, the s–t you call our reason for being. Folks like you want to break the bank to conquer the world. Scares me that you’re in a military school in this country. No nuance in your thinking. Perhaps no ability to see gray, only black and white. Disturbing color-blindness.

          • MA

            Actually since WW2 the US Navy has replaced and took up the duties world wide that the Royal Navy once provided.

          • RebelSoldier

            Where is our empire because I suppose you know the British navy was not created to do anything but tie together and protect the biggest empire in history. It itself is now history. And despite being in my 60’s if I hang around another 50 years our’s will have some major competitors on the seas. And again why is it that we need to spend a trillion a year on our navy? Anyone ever heard of the Spanish Armada? Back in the day, Spain was the Britain of the seas. It learned that the biggest ships in a huge concentration could be defeated by a tiny English fleet with precocious naval theories and a bad wind. More doesn’t always guarantee victory.

          • Marcd30319

            Are you a member of the United States Naval Institute?

            Your DISQUS profile is blocked and lack of transparency is never a good basis to engage in a discussion.

            Particularly if you are not a dues-paying member of the organization where you are posting.

          • RebelSoldier

            Your site was posted with the headline on Google News, which I spend much of my retirement reading, and I’ve posted in east Indian newspapers unaware of where they were. I have no interest in your business or school if that’s what it is. If your news articles are picked up by the internet I have a right to read them in passing and then make comments in passing. I doubt that most of your posters are that public. My life as a 67 year old retired gent has nothing to do with my comments, which are based on my education and wide reading in history, which if they have gotten under your skin you need to respond to with arguments and not act like a school marm. I’m on soc sec. I’m not dues paying, in any place I choose to post. But your site is completely free to lock me out. I’m quite used to that. The views I read on your site shocked me. Do you teach your students that it is the right of the USA to run the world’s oceans and seas. A right somehow connected with the Old or New Testament (something I’ve never heard in a Sunday sermon)? I doubt you’d get much love or understanding for that from the general public. I don’t represent the US government in ANY capacity, just an old man with a lot of book learning, so you’re the one with the power here. In the United States that is not supposed to be abused. As opposed to say Pakistan or Egypt or Turkey. What was it about my comments that have so shaken you? That I disagreed with your world view and had the mental capacity to take down?

          • Marcd30319

            I suspected as much. Nothing personal, sir, but this open message board format is a personal problem for me since I am a dues-paying member of the United States Naval Institute. This is directed at the news staff, not you.

            The US Navy does not “run the world’s oceans and seas” but as the world’s premier naval power, our Navy does assert the right of freedom of navigation on the high seas. This occasionally mean we sail our ships into waters that another country falsely claims as its territorial water.

            A classic example was the dispute involving Libya’s claim over the Gulf of Sidra being part of its territorial waters which looking at any atlas shows that this Gulf was mostly international waters. By asserting this freedom to navigate by the US Navy, all sea-faring nations benefit and are able to sail unmolested by false territorial claims of rogue nations.

            In actuality, the U.S. Navy merely took up the mantle of the British Royal Navy who likewise asserted the right of freedom of navigation to all ocean-going nations to sail through international water without interference.

          • RebelSoldier

            I agree. I’m no Anglophobe either. But you do sound as if the British navy’s interest in keeping sea lanes as diverse as the Straits of the Bosporus, which allowed it to send fleets into the Black Sea to counter the tsar’s Russia, and even forced foreign powers to keep their ports open to visiting British fleets as with China (similar with our “opening up of Japan” in the mid-nineteenth century) was a medal deserving service to mankind.

            Britain and France in the 1850’s used those straits between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea to occupy Crimea and force Russia to give up it’s victories just achieved in a war with Turkey (the Crimean War between Britain and France and Russia). Whether keeping the Russians out of what was left of Turkey was Britain’s moral business I would always refer to the million and a half Christian Armenians the Turks would later (1915 in the middle of WWI) kill in that eastern Anatolian region that the UK and France kept out of then (and now again) Christian Russian hands. Much worse was Britain’s forcing opium grown in in the empire (British India?) down Chinese throats. Being always allied with England now since 1917 we never see how cruel and pernicious that was. And when the Chinese revolted to force the opium trade out (the Boxer Rebellion) the “civilized world (England, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, the USA and Japan beat down the Chinese badly and burned a priceless treasure the summer palaces of the Chinese emperors. In the grand scheme of things Britain feathered it’s nest so well at the expense of others that only British self-deprecation explains why the others didn’t join in a war to take that vastest of empires down a notch. It pays to look like the good guys. Unlike the poor Germans with a colonial empire resembling a flea circus, but an emperor who became famous to contemporaries for telling German troops sent to fight the Boxers “to fight like Huns and put the fear of Germans in Chinese hearts”. And thus the WWl term “the Hun” was born. But it’s always good to remember that no matter how effective British propaganda was in the USA back in the day, they were not the Red Cross, they were the military arm of an empire on which the sun never set. I run on, sorry. And of course many, many British colonies were better off with the tea drinkers than they have been without them.

          • Marcd30319

            Take care, sir!

          • Niki Ptt

            “those who have gone before to free the oppressed of the planet is what
            the mission of the United States has been since our creation”…
            In fact, no. For a long, long time, the USA vowed not to interfere or involve themselves with other states business, and not to go to war unless attacked or seriously menaced.
            In the 1792 war between France and England, George Washington (one of your Founding Fathers) declared the USA neutral.
            I could also quote Thomas Jefferson: “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none”.
            And both were followed in that policy by 21 other POTUS, the first one breaching this policy being McKinley in 1898.

          • Curtis Conway

            The policy and mission of the US Military has certainly been a ‘work in progress’, and in support of this concept (except for isolation periods you mentioned above) the Christian concept of being a good neighbor, and ‘treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves’ has been the watch word for a long time. Those Frigates built right after the Revolution were on patrol off the coast of Tripoli to safeguard US shipping (“From the Shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps Hymn), and other nations benefited as well, and those ships were off the West Coast of Africa performing Anti-Piracy and Anti-Slave Trade Operations. It speaks to American Character and Mindset. Those who want to take care of themselves ONLY will have to give a reason why when they stand before G-d one day.

          • Niki Ptt

            Na na na. The First and Second Barbaric Wars were only a response to the capture of US merchant ships. Jefferson sent these frigates only to protect US interests, without any back-thought about other nations.
            The same goes for the 1812 war against Britain. The Royal Navy interrupted US trade with Europe and started an Indian insurrection in the US.
            Both these case conform to the policy of “not to go to war unless attacked or seriously menaced”.
            The 1846 war against Mexico is a continuity of the Monroe Doctrine, but is in total rupture with the above mentioned policy… That one I don’t really understand, no more than the Spanish-American war (although some conspiracy theorist could say the USS Maine explosion was a set-up to trigger a war between Spain and the US).
            Strangely enough, as a European, it’s easier for me to understand the Chinese mindset than the American mindset. A lot of things I don’t get, maybe because of that blend of religion, patriotism and lobbyism pushed to the extreme (no offense intended)…

          • Curtis Conway

            The United States is not a Theocracy, but our Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, Jurisprudence, and national intent has always been a Christian one, regardless of the fact that anyone wants to acknowledged it or not. If one studies our Founders writings, letters, speeches, musings and judgments, one cannot come to any other conclusion, unless your are in denial and have your own agenda, which is where most of the education system is in this country today.

            The Greatest Commandment Matt 22:37-39
            …37Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’…

            Which was a quote by Jesus from Deut 6 with his own addendum for He gets to do that: Deut 6:4-7
            4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

            If only the entire planet would do so. In the United States today we have a whole class of people who believe that Evil has a right to exist. When you reach that state, you are lost. For them there is no distinction between the two, and they do all manner of Evil feeling they have the right, which is against the Constitution of the United States, and yet the [some] Courts agree with them. Sharia Law is wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and our Jurisprudence, and yet we have activist judges that recognize Sharia Law Courts in These United States.

            If you really want to learn about our system of government as it was designed and functioned for nearly two hundred years in harmony for the most part, read the writings of Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville, a French diplomat, political scientist, who wrote Democracy in America.

      • El_Sid

        Confucius came up with the Golden Rule long before the Bible…

        • Curtis Conway

          I wonder who came before Confucius?

    • publius_maximus_III

      As for the Flips, all I can say is — there’s gratitude for you.

      • RebelSoldier

        I didn’t say it.

  • Edo6567

    It’s about freedom of navigation no matter where it is in the world not just because it’s far from our shores. If this is allowed to happen who else would try to do the same thing?

    • RebelSoldier

      Who else has an economy that is over-shooting ours and has the hydrogen bomb? Not all scenarios are equal. If Brazil, Argentina or Australia tried this they’d be laughed out of the room. You need to have a nuclear navy to pull this off and be squared off against little countries. Try pulling this off and grabbing waters used by another nuclear power with a navy and the old balance of power game comes into play. We are the only ones who are interested and at the same time can counter China in the South China Sea. But if we do what do we say when the Chinese navy builds a port in Nicaragua and starts flying all over the Gulf of Mexico. You can eat your cake. But nobody can eat it and keep it at the same time.

  • sferrin

    *Derp*

    • Cocidius

      I don’t usually agree with Mr. Ferrin but he’s certainly correct here. This mission was NOT a FONOP and I’m not even sure why they’re mentioning it. Either sail within 12 miles or quit talking about it.

      • Curtis Conway

        Having participated in many a FONOP, I can tell you he does not know what he is talking about. Every nation gets to control their national waters out to 12 miles (Territorial waters or a territorial sea as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) from the baseline (usually the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state). Look it up. Steamed many a nautical mile just a couple of hundred yards out the ’12 mile limit’ with Communist gunboats ‘just inside the 12 mile limit’ in night/day and all kinds of weather, just to demonstrate Freedom of Navigation. Innocent Passage is a whole different deal and usually deals with straits and other geographic coastal areas. Every Chart Petty Officer back in the old days had to learn this stuff, and make SURE those charts were 100% accurate.

        • Niki Ptt

          My Law of the Sea knowledge is a bit rusty but, according to this text, Woody and Triton Islands being part of the Paracels Archipelago, maybe the Chinese consider the waters between these islands as Internal Waters, as for the Philippines Archipelago for example. In that case, for Woody Island at least, some could consider the Decatur entered Chinese territorial waters. Concerning Triton Island, it depends on the side the ship was on… If it’s anything but South/South-West, then the same case as Woody Island applies.

        • sferrin

          Yep, my bad. I glanced through it and thought they were referring to one of the many patches of dirt China claims as their own territory that does not belong to them. In this case, where it’s acknowledged as Chinese territory (which only gets 12 miles) and they are claiming more, going inside that claim (but not inside the 12) would be “Freedom of Navigation”. If they went inside the 12 then they’d have to claim “Innocent Passage” and other rules apply.

          Now they need to go to those other patches of dirt and pass within eyeshot, radars blaring. I wouldn’t mind if they boomed them with a few supersonic B-1B flybys either.

          • Curtis Conway

            Don’t worry about it. At this point we can’t give any points to the Dragon.

  • P Mann

    If Duterte gets his way, he’s going to sell out our 70 years of mutual respect, peace and treatise to be China’s lapdog

  • B.J. Blazkowicz

    Good thing there wasn’t an LCS among them. The PLA would just laugh at it instead of firing missiles and torpedoes.

  • pennant8

    Nothing new here. Some of the old time Tin Can sailors might recall duty on the Formosa patrol, later renamed the Taiwan Patrol.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Am I correct in assuming they are not allowed to use any of their targeting radar while making such Freedom of Navigation passages?

    • Curtis Conway

      Navigation radars only and proceed through expeditiously conducting no other active operations that could be construed as having hostile intent.

      • sferrin

        I thought that is what defined, “Innocent Passage” not “Freedom of Navigation”, which would be required to cut across a country’s acknowledged water.

  • Marcd30319

    From MSN: “San Diego to South China Sea: U.S. Navy tested new command in latest challenge to China”

    Since this message board gets weird if you post a URL, the upshot is that it is the U.S. Third Fleet based in San Diego, not the U.S. Seventh Fleet in Japan, that is overseeing the USS Decatur during this so-called FON operation.

    Why is a state-side fleet command is doing this, and not the in-theater commander?

    Could it be to give Third Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Nora Tyson some extra operational command credit to make any promotion to four-star status more palatable an less controversial? Reference non-Admiral Michelle Howard rapid rise as a precursor.

    While I am not opposed to women in flag positions, this seems to be a stretch and violates unity of command and could be dangerous. Anyone remember the Pueblo Incident and the divided command structure?