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South China Sea
US Destroyer Sails into 12-Mile Zone

As promised, a U.S. destroyer sailed within 12 miles of China’s artificial outposts in the South China Sea yesterday. Beijing, unsurprisingly, wasn’t thrilled, according to Reuters:

“China strongly urges the U.S. side to conscientiously handle China’s serious representations, immediately correct its mistake and not take any dangerous or provocative acts that threat China’s sovereignty and security interests,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Beijing says it followed the ship closely and, today, summoned the American ambassador in protest.

But that was all. China has every incentive to be patient: unlike a waning power such as Russia, China has the strength and staying power to play the long game. (General Karl W. Eikenberry described how the game works, and the players strengths and weaknesses, in our July/August issue of this year.) Of course, China’s ambition is a good reason for the United States to establish a precedent early. Eventually, Beijing may feel it can get away with a tougher response.

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  • Anthony

    The FONOP (freedom of navigation operations) does not directly challenge or contest the sovereignty of specific features in the South China Sea. See: thediplomat.com/2015/10/after-months-of-waiting-us–finally-begins-freedom-of-navigation-patrols-near-chinas-man-made-is

    • f1b0nacc1

      Not quite. If you dig into the article a bit more deeply (and read the linked articles it references), you see that the choice of the US to sail within 12 nm of Subi reef DOES in fact indicate that it considers it to be an LTE with no associated territorial waters under UNCLOS, a rather direct challenge to China’s claim of sovereignty. (http://thediplomat.com/2015/09/the-truth-about-us-freedom-of-navigation-patrols-in-the-south-china-sea/) Now there might be OTHER features where the US will not take a position on sovereignty (a major mistake in my opinion, but one about which reasonable people might differ), but this particular ‘visit’ is pretty clear cut.

      • Anthony

        Quite briefly, no interpolation article speaks for itself (we politely disagree but more importantly Diplomat piece gives context from another side).

  • qet

    Everyone had better go home tonight and watch The Bedford Incident.

    • f1b0nacc1

      One of my favorites!
      Richard Widmark gives an amazing performance…

      • qet

        Agreed. Our commanders had better let their junior officers get some rest!

        • f1b0nacc1

          Or at least include some former U-boat commanders on the bridge….

  • Blackbeard

    Meaningless gesture. If we were serious about deterring Chinese agression we would be talking about selling Taiwan F-22s.

    • f1b0nacc1

      No need to go that far, how about offloading some of the A-10s our Air Force is (mistakenly) trying to get rid of. Providing them with access to more advanced aircraft (the new F-16Vs that are being shown off might be an excellent choice) as well as possible sale of other weapon systems would be useful as well.
      If none of that works, perhaps encouraging the Taiwanese to develop their own nuclear program wouldn’t be a bad idea (grin)….

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