A U.S. guided-missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation operation off the coast of Venezuela, U.S. Southern Command announced on Tuesday.
USS Nitze (DDG-94) steamed in Venezuela’s exclusive economic zone outside of its territorial sea, according to the SOUTHCOM statement.
“The U.S. Navy ship conducted the operation in international waters outside Venezuela’s 12 nautical mile territorial jurisdiction,” reads the statement. “During the operation, the ship lawfully navigated an area the illegitimate Maduro regime falsely claims to have control over, a claim that is inconsistent with international law.”
Caracas claims that military ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coast need prior approval from the Venezuelan government. The Venezuelan government is not part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which allows military ships to operate in an EEZ without prior notification.
While drawing less attention than the regular South China Sea freedom of navigation operations, the Navy and the Air Force conduct regular air and sea freedom of navigation operations around the world.
“Global access to international waters protects U.S. national interests, promotes a just international order, and ensures the U.S. Navy can accomplish key missions, including humanitarian assistance deployments, disaster relief operations, support to international counter-narcotics efforts, and multinational exercises that strengthen regional partnerships,” reads the statement.
In the last available Pentagon freedom of navigation report, the U.S. tested excessive claims of 26 countries.
The operation comes as the Navy and the Coast Guard have stepped up counter-narcotics operations in U.S. 4th Fleet.