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Pentagon Pledges More Freedom of Navigation Operations in South China Sea

USS Dewey (DDG-105) transits the South China Sea on May 6, 2017. US Navy Photo

THE PENTAGON — The war of words over last weekend’s U.S. Navy freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea continued on Thursday at press conferences in Beijing and Washington.

Pentagon officials have neither plans to stop sending warships steaming past the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea nor stop testing expansive territorial claims, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said on Thursday

“We’re going to continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations as allowed by international law and we’re going to continue to do the things that we’re doing,” McKenzie said during the Pentagon’s weekly on-camera media briefing.

McKenzie was responding to media questions about last weekend’s freedom of navigation operation, where Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) and Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Higgins (DDG-76) conducted a FON op past the Paracel Island chain.

When asked by members of the press corps about U.S. military planners concern over a potential long-term threat to navigation posed by the South China Sea island building, McKenzie referenced the U.S. island hopping strategy employed in World War II to repel the advancement of Japan’s military.

“It’s just a fact we have a lot of experience in the Second World War taking out small islands that are isolated. That’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before,” McKenzie said. “You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact.”

Earlier in the day, on the other side of the globe in Beijing, Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, fielded questions from the media about the U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation operations, according to an English translation transcript released by the Chinese government.

Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China, fielding questions from the media.

“We have noted that the US side has recently ignored the facts and hyped up the so-called “militarization of the South China Sea”. We are firmly opposed to it. China has indisputable sovereignty over relevant islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters,” Ren said, according to the transcript.

“It is the legitimate right of a sovereign state to build and deploy some necessary defense facilities on its own territory. No country has the right to make irresponsible remarks about this. We hope that the US will bear in mind the overall situation, look far ahead, abandon zero-sum thinking, properly handle differences, and work hard to make mil-to-mil relations a stabilizing factor in China-US relations,” Ren said, according to the transcript.

China has deployed surface to air missiles and other air defense assets to many of their South China Sea islands, McKenzie said.

When asked whether Pentagon officials expect an escalation in China’s response to future freedom of navigation operations, McKenzie said, “I couldn’t speculate as to what China’s actions in the future might or might not be.”

  • muzzleloader

    The arrogance of the chicoms is amazing, and the only thing that will puncture their veneer is precisely what the US fleet is doing. Send in the entire George Washington battle group through the scs, with flight ops to boot. Then send the USS Wasp ESG on fonops.
    Make the chicoms realize that the SCS is NOT thier private pond.

    • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

      New kids on block with a shiny new toy.

    • Jay

      Too late. Sailing and phony ops don’t do anything to the Chinese construction and military hardware already in place. But the good news is that Trump might call all these off …if only Jared can sell more million dollar condos and green cards to Chinese buyers and Ivanka can get more trademarks to produce more clothes, shoes and bags with sweatshop labor in China. With any luck, Javanka will break that $1 billion mark in net worth before Daddy gets impeached or before 2020. MAGA.

      • proudrino

        The US Freedom of Navigation program has been going on since 1979 and the principle of FON dates back centuries. When you make the claim that there is something nefarious and partisan about these operations because you hate the President and want to see America fail says more about the inadequecy of your intellect and ability to discuss issues with adult than it does anything else. Grow up or refrain from posting your immature hate-filled idiocy.

        • Jay

          Someone needs to do some reading and work on one’s relationship with objective reality. The current Presidency is awash in massive conflicts of interests and corruption (in addition to pervasive incompetence). Both Jared’s and Ivanka’s actions that I mentioned are FACTS. I did not even mention Trump’s treasonous dealings with Chinese telecoms company ZTE…deemed by the FBI in congressional testimony a “threat to national security”…after the Trump Organization was given a $500 million dollar “loan” by the Chinese government for a project in Asia. And countless, continuous and ongoing violations of the emoluments clause in the Constitution. And numerous treasonous meetings with Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE in exchange for favorable foreign policy decisions. Probably these are issues that are over your head but google them and point out exactly where I am wrong. If I confined myself to “discussing issues with adults” like yourself, I’d be an ignorant, self important “adult” like you. And you’re telling me to “grow up”? “Hate filled”? You meant to say factual, right? The truth hurts. Snowflakes like you also need to also develop a sense of humor… but if you can’t even get facts and reality straight, humor is probably a bridge too far. And, since you like to lecture people about whom you know nothing, factually, the US is not a signatory to the UNCLOS so America’s FONS program is empty rhetoric and has done nothing to deter China in the SCS…sort of like your post. You should let muzzleloader carry on conversations on his own…but I’m guessing that interrupting and stepping on others is part of your core personality.

          • proudrino

            So many words and so little to do with FON or reality.

            You really are filled with hate and a desire for America to fail. God help you find peace in your heart and in this world.

          • jack anderson

            Clinton got more

          • Jay

            Be specific. News cites from credible sources. Your favorite, Fox Noise, is not a credible source. You must be a Trump U grad.

    • .Hugo.

      or the arrogance of the american imperialists instead?
      .
      the last time when the entire battle group was in the scs, it was surrounded by more chinese vessels….
      .
      the chinese fleet can fly in a few UAVs to disrupt your flight ops.
      .
      the chinese fishing fleet can throw down a few fishing nets to disrupt the uss wasp esg.
      .
      i just don’t know what good your navy and marines will do, seriously….
      .
      oh by the way, you sound like all those ops don’t cost money.

      • muzzleloader

        We know that you are a Chinese troll. So how about dispensing with the Hugo moniker and tell us your real Chinese name?

        • Spruance42

          You’re right. He’s a well- known brainwashed Chinese troll that combs the defense blogs spewing PRC government nonsense.

          • muzzleloader

            Yeah, if he doesn’t give me his real name soon, I’m gonna give him one.

          • .Hugo.

            sure, especially when you can’t refute with facts.

          • .Hugo.

            actually i have to ask who is really brainwashed? the hawkish people like you? or the ones who can read and reason, and dare to voice out like me.

          • Captain Obvious

            If the south china sea belongs to the chinese, then the Indian ocean belongs to India, the Med belongs to the Italians, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans belong to the USA, etc., any “trespassers” (i.e. chinese freighters) will be met with deadly force.

          • .Hugo.

            the south china sea doesn’t belong to the chinese, only the 4 major island chains and their associated territorial waters do, that’s based on historical ownership and unclos.
            .
            india and italy can claim the islands in the indian ocean and the med too if they have the historical support.
            .
            as for the u.s., errr…… “historical support” for a country just 200 years old….? hmmm……
            .

          • Todd

            The only and real historical Chinese government fled to Taiwan during the civil war, the current communist dictator in China has no historical ownership of anything. But we know facts confuse you, so go get a latte and cry us a river little commie.

          • .Hugo.

            has the u.n. called the chinese leadership a dictatorship?
            .
            historical ownership is inherited, the chinese sovereignty is inherited from previous dynasties to the republic governments.
            .
            i am quite certain that facts have not confused you, that’s why you only accept them selectively and can’t face the whole truth. 🙂
            .

        • .Hugo.

          so you can’t refute my reply but can only resort to the old troll excuse? never mind, i am quite used to it. 🙂
          .

      • John Wayne

        hey Hugo, our Dash 12 line is much bigger than your old puny little dash nine line

        • .Hugo.

          whatever, that just won’t change the chinese sovereignty in the scs islands.

  • proudrino

    “We have noted that the US side has recently ignored the facts and hyped up the so-called “militarization of the South China Sea”.

    Says the spokesman for the country that just landed a nuke-capable plane on a man-made pile of dirt in the South China Sea. There is a legitimate principle behind FON operations and I’m glad the administration is exercising that principle both in the South China Sea and also the Black Sea.

    • waveshaper1

      Give it time and eventually the PRC fleet may end up parked on the bottom of one of their man -made dirt piles/lagoons. IMHO, we could always use a few more great dive sites like Truk Lagoon in this AO. I just hope places like Truk Lagoon are ready for some epic tourist/dive site competition.

      • .Hugo.

        give it time? then i am safe to say eventually the usn may end up parked on the bottom of surrounding waters too.
        .
        sure, china can really develop tourism in the island chains with more dive sites with sunken u.s. warships too.
        .

      • jack anderson

        we are funning out of surplus ships for targeting practice !

    • .Hugo.

      another non-scs nation has actually landed more nuke-capable planes on another island, and used them to challenge the other’s sovereignty.
      .
      and this is the legitimate principle behind china’s enhancement of it defense in its south china sea territory.
      .
      i am glad that the chinese government is determined to protect chinese sovereignty and interest in the south china sea too.

  • Ed L

    Maybe the U.S. Navy if they have enough chips to deploy a SAG out of each of the following countries. Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, and Indonesia. Each SAG with a cruiser, couple destroyers, couple frigates and 3 LCS’s

    • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

      Map exercise: Postulate land based anti-ship missile batteries with something akin to Tomahawks based in the nations you list. Draw range circle using Jane’s published ranges. Add land attack variants and the South China Sea is suddenly a highly contested body of water.

      I do not remember which Iowa class it was, but a small island (Tiger Island) off North Vietnam was ‘sunk’ during the Vietnam war.

      I am not suggesting fewer FON missions, but more.

      Finally, what is happening to commercial traffic? That is the meat of the issue.

      • tteng

        (forgot this blog does not allow linked reference)

        Google ‘John quiggin, keeping the sea lanes open, a cost benefit analysis’

        About $4T out of 5T commerce through SCS is to or from China. Therefore, it is China’s interest to keep the sea lanes safe for commerce.