How the U.S. FON Program is Lawful and Legitimate
Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, October 30, 2015
4 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2015
Date Written: October 30, 2015
The U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program has recently drawn significant attention in the United States and abroad. An argument could be made that the program has received more attention in 2015 than in its preceding 35 years combined. This recent focus arose as the world witnessed China engage in reclamation (enhancement of naturally-formed areas of land) and “clamation” (construction of artificial islands on low-tide elevations and submerged features) in the Spratly Island group in the South China Sea – activities on an unprecedented scale and with questionable intent.
Senior U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, have publicly declared that the United States “will continue to sail, fly, and operate anywhere that international law allows.” The world now watches as U.S. military vessels and aircraft conduct FON operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea, including in the waters and airspace around the features in question. Much has been said and written recently about U.S. FONOPs – some of which is incomplete, inaccurate, or both. This article is an attempt to set the record straight on the matter, based upon this author’s prior experience with the U.S. FON Program at the operational, theater-strategic, and policy levels of the U.S. military.
Keywords: International Law, Law of the Sea, Freedom of Navigation, Freedom of Navigation Operations, FONOP
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