Pentagon 2020 Freedom of Navigation Report

March 10, 2021 2:48 PM

The following is the Fiscal Year 2020 summary of the Department of Defense’s freedom of navigation operations.

From the report

For more than 40 years, the U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program has continuously reaffirmed the United States’ policy of exercising and asserting its navigation and overflight rights and freedoms around the world. These assertions communicate that the United States does not acquiesce to the excessive maritime claims of other nations, and thus prevents those claims from becoming accepted in international law.

Formally established in 1979, the FON Program consists of complementary diplomatic and operational efforts to safeguard lawful commerce and the global mobility of U.S. forces. The Department of State protests excessive maritime claims, advocating for adherence to international law, while the Department of Defense (DoD) exercises the United States’ maritime rights and freedoms by conducting operational challenges against excessive maritime claims. In combination, these efforts help preserve for all States the legal balance of interests established in customary international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.

DoD’s operational challenges are also known as “FON assertions,” “FON operations,” and “FONOPs.” The comprehensive, regular, and routine execution of these operations supports the

longstanding U.S. national interest in freedom of the seas worldwide. Activities conducted by DoD under the FON Program are deliberately planned, legally reviewed, and professionally conducted. DoD’s actions reinforce international law in an even-handed, principled manner without provoking armed conflict.

As this reports illustrates, FONOPs challenge a wide variety of excessive maritime claims made by allies, partners, and competitors. FONOPs are not focused on any particular claimant, and they are not executed in response to current events. Rather, their purpose is to reinforce international law peacefully and in a principled, unbiased manner.

In Fiscal Year 2020, a number of like-minded partners voiced strong public support for the Law of the Sea Convention as the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. Moreover, many nations have commented favorably on the United States’ peaceful vigilance of excessive maritime claims. The United States invites these and other nations to conduct their own freedom of navigation operations and to publicly—and peacefully—contest excessive maritime claims. The Department of Defense will continue supporting a growing chorus of nations upholding international law and the rules-based order that has proven essential to global security and the stability and prosperity of all nations.

The Annual DoD FON Report

Every year, DoD releases an unclassified report identifying the excessive maritime claims that U.S. forces operationally challenged over the last fiscal year.

Below is a summary of excessive maritime claims that DoD challenged during the period of October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020, to preserve the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations by international law. In sum, the United States challenged the excessive maritime claims of 19 claimants. Many excessive claims were challenged multiple times. The report cites each claimants’ specific laws, regulations, and other proclamations articulating the excessive maritime claims in brackets.

Download the document here.

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