While China conducts innocent passage around real U.S. islands of Alaska, the U.S. is apparently unable to do so around China’s fake islands in the South China Sea. The transit by Chinese warships in innocent passage through the territorial sea of Attu Island in the Aleutian chain has added an additional wrinkle to U.S. policy in the South China Sea.On May 12, the Wall Street Journal reported that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had asked his staff to “look at options” for exercising the rights and freedom of navigation and overflight in the EEZ, to include flying maritime patrol aircraft over China’s new artificial islands in the region, and sending U.S. warships to within 12 nautical miles of them. Later that month, a P-8 surveillance aircraft with a CNN crew on board, was repeatedly warned to “go away quickly” from Fiery Cross Reef, even as it flew beyond 12 nm from the feature. Fiery Cross Reef is a Chinese-occupied outcropping that has been fortified by a massive 2.7 million square meter land reclamation into an artificial island with a 3,110-meter airstrip and harbor works capable of servicing large warships.
As always, the Obama administration is looking for ways to cede influence and power to other nations. Pinged on this policy the other day, administration proxies put out a nonsensical talking point about the increased number of Freedom of Navigation missions the Navy has engaged in. The problem is, the number near these artificial islands is still zero.
And as Dr. Kraska’s article shows, China has absolutely no legitimate claim under international law to sovereignty and territorial status. The problem is, unless you challenge that illegitimate claim, and exercise your freedoms, pretty soon, international law becomes moot, and China will impose its will on the region by force or implied threat of force.
That is far more destabilizing that the risks run by having US Navy warships operating within 12 nautical miles today.
President XBrad would have a Carrier Strike Group make a couple laps around Fiery Cross Reef en route to its operating area.