My suspicions were correct. Our Navy just pretended to conduct freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) during four recent transits in the South China Sea:
In all three [of the first three] cases, however, the Navy ships curtailed their normal operations. They turned off their fire control radar, performed no practice maneuvers, and conducted no routine exercises. Those are all restraints that UNCLOS imposes on warships in innocent passage through a state’s legally recognized coastal waters.—such as the Chinese warships that moved through U.S. waters off Alaska’s coast last year or a hypothetical U.S. Navy transit within 12 miles of the Chinese coast. ...
Last October, the Obama administration authorized the Navy to conduct one last operation, perhaps the most curious of the four. The USS Decatur steamed through high seas near islands China claims in the Paracels without actually transiting within 12 nautical miles of the islands. So, in that case, it was not even claiming innocent passage, but it is not clear whether the ship was in normal operating mode.
When we carry out an actual FONOP by conducting routine Navy operations within the 12 nautical mile limit of Chinese land features that challenges Chinese claims rather than the "red line theater" that the Obama administration and China performed, our point ship should be heavily supported with assets over-watching its transit (although in that post I wrongly credited the Obama administration from conducting a true FONOP).
China will continue to build land and use it to wall off the South China Sea:
The Philippines says China might be trying to build on a reef near its coast in a bid to eventually reclaim the Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. Such a move would be totally "unacceptable", Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in Manila.
So we have to clearly defy their motives.
And in the bigger picture, as China highlights a "century of humiliation" to justify Communist rule in China, America should remind the Chinese people that the most lasting impact of that century was the loss of huge tracts of land to the Russians.
I mentioned this FONOP issue in a recent data dump, but this article is the first to explicitly confirm my suspicions.