07 June 2016
Recent months have seen a continuing increase in military activities in the South China Sea, particularly by the United States and China, but also by ‘bit players’ like India and Japan. These activities only serve to heighten tensions in the region at a time when the priority should be to demilitarise the area.
In the most recent serious incident, on 17 May, two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US Navy EP-3 intelligence and surveillance aircraft about 50 nautical miles east of Hainan Island. This incident could have violated agreed upon procedures between the United States and China to manage such encounters. It follows earlier incidents when Chinese jet fighters intercepted US P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft over the South China and Yellow seas.
The United States recently conducted its third freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea since China started its extensive land reclamation and building of airfields and support facilities on reclaimed land in the Spratly Islands. The latest FONOP involved a US warship sailing close by the disputed Fiery Cross Reef. In March, the United States sent a small fleet of warships — comprising aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, two destroyers, two cruisers and a Japan-based US Seventh Fleet flagship — into contested waters to counter the presence of China.
… Sam Bateman is an adviser to the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is a former Australian naval commodore who has worked in force development areas of the Department of Defence in Canberra.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 07/06/2016