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Pentagon 2017 Freedom of Navigation Report

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 www.jag.navy.mil/organization/code_10_mcrm.htm):

  • SamIam

    Send in the LCS, the chinks won’t give a s h i t, because they know it’s harmless. In fact they might even invite the LCS to run up on the beach for a bar-b-que.

    • Lazarus

      Both USS Fort Worth and USS Coronado have done FON ops in the Western Pacific.

  • Frank Blangeard

    ‘Freedom of Navigation’ apparently does not apply to ships headed to North Korea with oil in the middle of winter. In that case it is ‘Freedom to Freeze’ that is enforced.

    • SDW

      Even the enforcement of sanctions is done in accordance with the law. If the only overweight person in northern Korea changes his funding priorities then his subjects will have plenty of fuel.

      • Frank Blangeard

        The United States is planning to spend one trillion dollars over the next thirty years to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. How about changing our ‘funding priorities’?

        • SDW

          Really? Some sort of the big bad US is making Kim the third spend all his national funds on his military–including nukes? Keep trying new topics. Sooner or later one of them might stick. You haven’t been paying attention to the Soviet errr, make that Neo-Imperialist Russia’s announcements about upgrading their nuke arsenal. That’s been going on for years while our systems have grown only older and more expensive to maintain. The US plans being discussed include fewer weapons with less explosive power.

  • kye154

    “Freedom of Navigation”,….For who? If it is for the benefit of other nations, then why are we not sending them a bill for having our naval ships to go there? It does seem like a blatant violation of 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.”

    It is not for DoD to decide policy on its own, or to be the driver of U.S.policy, by conducting operational challenges against excessive maritime claims. As much prowling as the U.S. navy does, this “Freedom of Navigation” nonsense could very easily be used by other nations as an “excessive maritime claim” as a slap in the face against us.

    • publius_maximus_III

      Oh, I’m sure every USN skipper is given carte blanche to go a “Freedom of Navigation” challenging up a storm, without any approval whatsoever from up the chain of command…

      • kye154

        Its not even up to the chain of command to decide. Instead, its decided by the international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982. The Law of the Sea Convention defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources.

        In particular, the law specifically says: Foreign nations have the freedom of navigation and overflight, “subject to the regulation of the coastal states”. Note: there are lots of “coastal states” in the South China Sea, but the U.S. is not one of them. However, the United States never did ratify the Treaty, which requires 2/3 votes of Congress. Since the United States is not party to this International agreement, the U.S. is not in the position to be the one regulating “Freedom of Navigation” of international waters under that law.

        • publius_maximus_III

          I’m CORN-fused. First you say it is not up to the chain of command to decide, but some mythic international authority. Then you say we chose not to be a part of that convention, so apparently we need to just bow out of “use of the world’s oceans” as you say. What to do, what to do?

          • SDW

            You are not nearly as corn-fused as a couple of posters want us to think.

        • SDW

          LOSC III didn’t spring forth from the sea without precedent, hence the 3 following its acronym. The US objects to Part XI dealing with seabed exploitation. The LOSC was signed by the US administration and the US supports LOSC III. US FON claims and operations are fully in accordance with its provisions.

          The LOSC explicitly includes Customary International Law and, like all international law, applies to the entire planet. That the US does not have a coast in the South China Sea, Black Sea, Indian Ocean, Gulf of Arabia is irrelevant. For that matter, the same lack of coastlines is irrelevant to Portugal and Switzerland too.

          The US does not regulate compliance with International Law. When we disagree with an action taken or a right asserted by another nation affecting Freedom of Navigation we communicate that directly to that nation and seek to remedy it. If that is unsuccessful then recourse to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) under the terms of Part XV of the LOSC is available. This was done with respect to the dispute between the Philippines and China and the South China Sea (SCS) Tribunal established through the PCA ruled overwhelmingly in the Philippines’ favor in 2016.

          You know you are spouting rubbish. You don’t happen to work in Sankt-Peterburg, do you?

          • kye154

            You are just a wanna-be-lawyer. Do you see any evidence of the U.S. ever taking China to the PCA? Of course not! Only the Philippines has. There is absolutely nothing in in the PCA ruling that specifically said it gave the U.S. any rights of “freedom of navigation” in the South China sea. So, what’s the point of writing your rubbish on this thread anyway? Not from Lower Slobovia are you?

          • SDW

            Whether the US wants to take the time to haul China before a PCA tribunal is not now important. Will China comply with the existing ruling? When China is taken to court by Vietnam, Malaysia, or even Brunei it will just be a confirmation of the same ruling. What would be interesting is if China were to take the US to court for not recognizing their excessive claims. Not much chance of that happening is there?

            Why should the 2016 ruling have said anything about the US right to sail in the South China Sea? That isn’t subject to any question raised before any tribunal.

          • kye154

            That’s right, and its the primary reason why the U.S. stays out of that tribunal. Most of the member states that are represented at the tribunal are no longer favorable towards the U.S.,. Most think the U.S. is belligerent. So, the U.S. would lose on their claims to rights of navigation, much more, the rights to even be there. The last time the U.S. ever went to that tribunal was during the 1980’s over Iran. And, the U.S. can’t risk hauling China before that tribunal without some Chinese retaliation and serious economic consequences. Court or not, the U.S. doesn’t hold a strong hand in Asia, that it once had 50 years ago, and same with PCA.

          • SDW

            So, if the PCA tribunals are as prejudiced as you claim then it is entirely logical that the US avoids taking a nation to court. Have you read (or been told) enough about LOSC to recognize that the claims that you make are, at best, mistaken? Here’s a summary of your failed claims:

            1. the FONOPS somehow violate Pres. Reagan’s 1983 statement on U.S. Oceans Policy. Hardly! Here is the paragraph you partially cited:
            ” Second, the United States will exercise and assert its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests reflected in the convention. The United States will not, however, acquiesce in unilateral acts of other states designed to restrict the rights and freedoms of the international community in navigation and overflight and other related high seas uses.”
            2. the DoD decides policy on its own, or tries to drive U.S. policy. Wrong! The US Department of State determines which foreign restrictions are illegal and only after failing to achieve a remedy is the USN tasked to protect our rights by exercising them.
            3. other nations can claim that the exercise of our rights is an “excessive maritime claim”. Nope. You don’t understand the meaning of the term and are using it backwards. You ought to check with a fellow troll with more knowledge.
            4. to be “subject to the regulation of the coastal states” means that coastal states can do whatever they want. Another bogus claim. The coastal states must act within the law. The LOSC protects all sea faring nations regardless of where, how much, or even whether they have any ocean-bordering coast.
            5. the US seeks to regulate “Freedom of Navigation” under international law. Wrong again. The US acts under international law to prevent de facto changes to it much like how under Common Law adverse possession someone can lose property rights by not asserting them. These maritime rights are established by treaty and Customary International Law.
            6. The 2016 ruling in the dispute between the Philippines and China should have spelled out the US rights to free and innocent passage in the SCS—that it didn’t must mean that the US has no rights. Huh? Who are you trying to fool? The US wasn’t a party to the legal appeal but it sure makes the US case even more clearly valid. Since you claim to speak for most if not all other nations, tell us, when will China implement the SCS Tribunal’s ruling?
            7. the PCA tribunals are biased against the US and so the US should just give up trying to act within the law. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. That the US continues to call other nations on their illegal and unlawful acts under international law simply undercuts your repeated argument that the US is some sort of bully. You imply that China would retaliate against the US for insisting that it comply with international law. What is the nature of your threat and does it mean that China will also retaliate against the Philippines because it prevailed in one of these politically biased courts?
            Your use of the first person plural to imply a US identity is not convincing. Nonetheless, please pass on my regards to all your friends and co-workers at 55 Savushkina Street.

          • kye154

            See you stayed up all night to write this. There are basically two problems with all 7 points.
            1. You are saying the U.S. can do whatever it wants,
            2. Everyone else must follow the law, meaning U.S. dictum.
            The American Empire is on its death bed, and I think you should realize that. Also, your comments are a bit amusing, coming from a wanna-be-lawyer, considering America doesn’t really follow any laws.

          • SDW

            Now you’re sounding petulant. The US does what it considers legal to respond to what it considers illegal. There are means by which the US can be deemed to be wrong and in that case our actions will change. Any disagreement can be decided by treaty, amendment to the LOSC, or PCA ruling. There is no US dictatum (диктата) nor ukase (указ).

            We saw the first Russian Empire fall apart, we danced on communism’s grave, and we shall certainly dance when this new attempt at imperialism falls apart and is consigned to the “dust bin of history.”

            by the way, when a comment is posted is not necessarily when it is written but then I am not paid, per post, to parrot the party line.

    • UKExpat

      Regretfully the US will not get any bills paid, whether sent or not. The reason being is no other nation asked the US to send it’s ships there’ Their argument is simple, people do not have to pay bills for items they did not order or request.

    • SDW

      FON operations are not nonsense. In fact, it is part and parcel of the policy you quote. The US does not “acquiesce in unilateral acts of other states designed to restrict the rights and freedom of the international community.” The US Department of State files a protest of a restriction we do not accept as legal. Only if the claimant nation does not achieve compliance by treaty, altering their claim, or receive a favorable verdict from the International Court of Justice does the USN transit a straight, navigate in waters illegally claimed as territorial seas, or otherwise assert the rights of all nations according to established international law.

      That a US objection to another nation’s illegal claim constitutes an excessive maritime claim is a ludicrous misuse of the term. You’ve been instructed before on the law’s basics and show a lack of interest or ability to understand. You stay with your standard talking points hoping that if you throw enough manure some of it must stick.

  • publius_maximus_III

    Seems to be a column missing: Action Taken.

  • UKExpat

    Whoever started highlighting “Freedom of Navigation” as a problem seems, whether or not they intended to, have managed to get their timing spot on. It is now becoming clear that with the onslaught of “Global Warming” it is now beginning to become very obvious that lots of potential future vital “Freedom of Navigation” issues could soon become significant problem areas. Major examples of such places would include the “North West Passage” near Alaska & Canada, Northern Artic Russia, Antarctica, Island archipelagos, etc. Strangely the current problem with the South China Sea may be slightly alleviated if China’s new artificial Islands get flooded. Whatever actually happens it is now fairly clear that significant future choke points in international relations could start becoming relevant sooner than most people expect..

    • SDW

      There is a principle of nature that whatever you ignore shall, at some point not of your choice, bite you in some vital body part.

      The US has not recognized some claim, big or small, of many countries. Most of these are matters of a country drawing maritime borders a little wider than the established law provides. By playing a game of connect-the-dots huge parts of the high seas can be claimed that far exceed the accepted 12 nmi limit or otherwise step on historic seafaring rights. We have a few of these protested/unrecognized claim disputes with some of our best friends. To disagree on such matters is not generally considered hostile. In fact, they are often left at a “agree to disagree” status.

      For example, the US protests the decision by Canada that all ships, including sovereign immune vessels (includes warships), must announce their entrance in the historic sea lane called the Northwest Passage. The US does not accept this restriction on all ships. The US claims the right of innocent passage, basically that you point the guns fore and aft, don’t use fire control radars and similar. This view is supported by established law. The fact that the US might want to keep it’s submarines from having to declare their position is secondary and for FON purposes, irrelevant.