An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | July 13, 2021

7th Fleet conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation

By (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Deanna C. Gonzales) U.S. 7th Fleet

On July 12, USS Benfold (DDG 65) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law.

Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for the South China Sea littoral nations.

The United States challenges excessive maritime claims around the world regardless of the identity of the claimant. The international law of the sea as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention provides for certain rights and freedoms and other lawful uses of the sea to all nations. The international community has an enduring role in preserving the freedom of the seas, which is critical to global security, stability, and prosperity.

The United States upholds freedom of navigation as a principle. As long as some countries continue to assert maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and that purport to restrict unlawfully the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all States, the United States will continue to defend those rights and freedoms. No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms.

China, Taiwan, and Vietnam each claim sovereignty over the Paracel Islands. All three claimants require either permission or advance notification before a military vessel or warship engages in “innocent passage” through the territorial sea. Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the ships of all States – including their warships – enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea. The unilateral imposition of any authorization or advance-notification requirement for innocent passage is not permitted by international law. By engaging in innocent passage without giving prior notification to or asking permission from any of the claimants, the United States challenged these unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The United States demonstrated that innocent passage may not be subject to such restrictions.

The United States also challenged China’s 1996 declaration of straight baselines encompassing the Paracel Islands. Regardless of which claimant has sovereignty over the islands in the Paracel Islands, straight baselines cannot lawfully be drawn around the Paracel Islands in their entirety. International law as reflected in the Law of Sea Convention is both clear and comprehensive regarding the circumstances under which States can depart from “normal” baselines. Straight baselines cannot be lawfully drawn in the Paracels under the international law of the sea as reflected in Article 7 of the Law of Sea Convention. Furthermore, international law does not permit continental States, like China, to establish baselines around entire dispersed island groups. With these baselines, China has attempted to claim more internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf than it is entitled to under international law. By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea and that China’s claimed straight baselines around the Paracel Islands are inconsistent with international law.

U.S. forces operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis, as they have for more than a century. They routinely operate in close coordination with like-minded allies and partners who share our commitment to uphold a free and open international order that promotes security and prosperity. All of our operations are designed to be conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows – regardless of the location of excessive maritime claims and regardless of current events.

The PRC's statement about this mission is false. USS Benfold conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters. The operation reflects our commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle. The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Benfold did here. Nothing PRC says otherwise will deter us.

The PLA(N)'s statement is the latest in a long string of PRC actions to misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations and assert its excessive and illegitimate maritime claims at the expense of its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea. The PRC's behavior stands in contrast to the United States' adherence to international law and our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. All nations, large and small, should be secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms.

Summaries of U.S. freedom of navigation assertions are released publicly in the annual “DoD Freedom of Navigation Report.” Past reports are available online at https://policy.defense.gov/OUSDP-Offices/FON/.
CONNECT WITH USINDOPACOM
Facebook

Like Us
X
361,629
Follow Us

ENGAGE & CONNECT MORE WITH PACOM

                                                 

IN THE USINDOPACOM NEWS
Mountain Dragons improve mission readiness during rotational deployment to Korea
American Soldiers from the Fort Drum, New York-based 59th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Company (Hazardous Response) participate in the Advanced Chemical Biological Course on Camp Humphreys, South Korea. A mobile training team from the Special Programs Division on Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, conducted the course. Courtesy photo.
Feb. 9, 2024 - American Soldiers from a forward deployed U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) company improved their technical and tactical readiness during a nine-month rotational deployment to South Korea...

Japan, U.S. Army Conduct Cold Weather Training During North Wind 2024
U.S. Paratroopers from Blackfoot Company, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 11th Airborne Division give a demonstration of sniper rifle marksmanship training on M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper Systems to Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) members with 28th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, Northern Army during North Wind 24, Jan. 25, 2024 on JGSDF Hokudai-en Training Area in Chitose, Hokkaido. On Jan. 24, 2024 both the JGSDF members and U.S. Paratroopers showed each other the standard operating procedures for their respective sniper teams to prepare for this live-fire training. North Wind is a bilateral cold-weather field training exercise held between the U.S. Army and JGSDF where the allies exchange tactics and techniques; this year’s exercise is the 31st North Wind.
Feb. 9, 2024 - A closing ceremony hosted by the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) Northern Army was held marking the completion of North Wind 2024 at Camp Higashi-Chitose, Jan. 31...

Philippines, US partner in Maritime Cooperative Activity in South China Sea
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 9, 2024) - The Philippine Navy ship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS-15) sails with the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) during a maritime cooperate activity exercise in the South China Sea Feb. 9. The U.S. Navy and the Philippine Navy conducted the third iteration of the Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) in the South China Sea, reaffirming both nations’ commitment to bolstering regional security and stability. (Photo courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines)
Feb. 9, 2024 - The U.S. Navy and the Philippine Navy (PN) conducted the third iteration of the Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) in the South China Sea, reaffirming both nations’ commitment to bolstering regional security and stability,...

U.S., Japan and Australia Conduct Trilateral Operations
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 7, 2024) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG 113), sails with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Sazanami (DD 113) and Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Warramunga (FFH 152) during trilateral operations in the South China Sea, Feb. 7. John Finn is forward-deployed and assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 71/Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stack)
Feb. 8, 2024 - The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn (DDG 113) and Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) conducted trilateral operations with allied maritime forces from the Japan...

Statement From Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on a Helicopter Crash in California
Feb. 8, 2024 - We mourn the tragic loss of five U.S. Marines earlier this week during a training flight enroute from Nevada to California...