Saturday, January 30, 2016

When Far, Appear Near?

We sailed near a Chinese-claimed island and China reacts angrily:

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said no ships from China's military were in the vicinity of the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur when it passed near Triton Island in the Paracel Islands. ...

"The American warship has violated relevant Chinese laws by entering Chinese territorial waters without prior permission, and the Chinese side has taken relevant measures including monitoring and admonishments," China's foreign ministry said in a statement.

But given our diplomacy of late, I have to ask whether we pretended to carry out a freedom of navigation operation that was actually innocent passage while China pretended to be outraged to bolster our pretend resolute stand, while giving up nothing in practice.

And this does nothing to increase my confidence:

"We conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea earlier tonight," Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said in a statement.

Davis said the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur made the "innocent passage" off Triton Island in the Paracel island chain, which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Oh good God! Was it a freedom of navigation operation? Or was it innocent passage? Those are different things!

Sailing close to the island is not enough. That is actually allowed under international law. What we need to do is operate weapons systems (that doesn't mean shooting) while transiting to prove that we are in international waters.

UPDATE: This does not appear to be a true freedom of navigation operation:

While a Pentagon statement to USNI News on Saturday didn’t specify the type of transit Wilbur took past Triton Island but it’s likely it was an innocent passage – a stipulation in maritime law that allows warships to transit through a nation’s territorial waters “so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state,” according to Article 19 of the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention.

The transit did violate Chinese law, which says that no ship can enter "their" waters (which is overly broad in violation of international law, too) at any time under any circumstances without Chinese permission.

But Chinese law exceeds what is allowable under international law and practice.

So I guess we didn't do enough and China protested anyway because even that was too much for them.