US releases annual report on freedom of navigation operations
The annual Pentagon report (released today) claimed that the US military administered "freedom of navigation" operations against 13 countries in 2015. The navigation operations were against "China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, the Philippines and Vietnam." By conducting such operations, the US has been trying to keep nations such as China from laying claim on international waters and lands.
Freedom of navigation: What is it?
The US' Freedom of Navigation operation confronts territorial claims on the world's airspace and seas that are deemed excessive by the US. The US asserts that all governments should obey the international law under UN Law of the Sea Convention. The operations comprise sending US Navy ships and military aircraft into regions where other countries have tried to restrict access.
19 countries targeted by US in 2014
The year 2014 saw the maximum number of Freedom of Navigation operations in the decade. It targetted a record 19 countries in 2014.
US operations against China in the South China Sea
In the recent times, the US military has conducted several operations disputing China's maritime claims in the South China Sea. In October 2015, to check Beijing's island-building activity in the South China Sea, the US military conducted a freedom of navigation patrol. The operation near the Spratly archipelago was criticised by China who warned the US against such maritime violations.
After China, Iran and Philippines get challenged the most
Apart from China, Iran and the Philippines are the two most frequently challenged countries through the Freedom of Navigation operations. The primary reason for this is that " they sit astride busy sea lanes whose use they have tried to limit or govern."
China critical of US' Freedom of Navigation operations
China has displayed concern at US' Freedom of Navigation operations. The US has been constantly conducting operations near Scarborough Shoal which was seized by China from the Philippine coast guard in 2012. China's defence ministry said that the US was carrying out militarization in the name of freedom of navigation, hence, threatening coastal nations' freedom and security and destroying regional harmony and stability.