Despite Rising Tensions in Southeast Asia, US Still Projecting Uncertainty

DAILY SIGNAL — There is a lot going on in Southeast Asia. The United States has conducted another freedom of navigation operation in the area of several disputed islands. The American Aegis destroyer USS William P. Lawrence sailed within 12 nautical miles of the artificial Chinese island built atop Fiery Cross Reef.

Because Fiery Cross Reef began as a “high tide elevation (HTE),” (meaning: a rock) it is entitled to a 12 nautical mile zone of territorial waters.

The United States therefore chose to conduct an “innocent passage,” sailing across the 12 nautical mile zone with its radars off, helicopter grounded, and weapons aimed fore-and-aft. Its main challenge to the Chinese was conducting its passage without giving the People’s Republic of China prior notification.

So, the administration continues to conduct freedom of navigation operations at a desultory pace, with nearly five months intervening since the last operation.

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