Pentagon 2017 Freedom of Navigation Report

January 25, 2018 10:29 AM

The followings is the Fiscal Year 2017 summary of the Department of Defense freedom of navigation operations.

From the Report:

The U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program was formally established in 1979 and consists of a two-pronged complementary strategy to maintain the global mobility of U.S. forces and unimpeded commerce by protesting and challenging attempts by coastal States to unlawfully restrict access to the seas.

• The Department of State (DOS) leads the first prong by diplomatically protesting foreign laws, regulations, or other claims of coastal States that are inconsistent with international law (called “excessive maritime claims”).
• The Department of Defense (DoD) leads a second prong that complements DOS protests by conducting operational challenges against excessive maritime claims.

FON operations (FONOPs) support the longstanding U.S. national interest of freedom of the seas. While not a defined term under international law, DoD uses “freedom of the seas” to mean all of the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace, including for military ships and aircraft, guaranteed to all nations under international law. DoD ensures freedom of the seas by preserving the global mobility of U.S. forces and unimpeded commerce through comprehensive, regular, and routine FONOPs worldwide.
As President Reagan stated in the U.S. Oceans Policy (1983), the United States “will exercise and assert its rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests” reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. Some coastal States assert excessive maritime claims that, if left unchallenged, could impinge on the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all States under international law. As stated in the 1983 U.S. Oceans Policy, the United States “will not…acquiesce in unilateral acts of other states designed to restrict the rights and freedom of the international community.”

DoD challenges excessive maritime claims asserted by a wide variety of coastal States including allies, partners, and other nations on a worldwide basis to maintain global mobility of U.S. forces. The Program includes both planned FON assertions (i.e., operations that have the primary purpose of challenging excessive maritime claims) and other FON-related activities (i.e., operations that have some other primary purpose, but have a secondary effect of challenging excessive maritime claims). Activities conducted by DoD under the FON Program are deliberately planned, legally reviewed, properly approved, and conducted with professionalism.

Annual Report:
Each year, DoD releases an unclassified summarized FON Report identifying the coastal States and excessive maritime claims that are challenged by U.S. forces. The FON Report also includes general geographic information to transparently demonstrate non-acquiescence in excessive maritime claims while still maintaining operational security of U.S. military forces. Below is a summary of excessive maritime claims that were challenged by DoD operational assertions and activities during the period of October 1, 2016, to September 30, 2017, in order to preserve the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations by international law. For a complete list of all coastal States making excessive maritime claims, as well as the years those claims were challenged by U.S. forces under the FON Program, see the DoD Maritime Claims Reference Manual (available online at

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