If authorized by the president, China will protest this American defense of the international rules on international waters:
U.S. Navy and Pacific Command leaders want to ratchet up potentially provocative operations in the South China Sea by sailing more warships near the increasingly militarized man-made islands that China claims as sovereign territory, according to several Navy officials. ...
“The more it became a big deal, the more it looked like what we were doing was retaliatory or vindictive. It’s not.” McGrath [a former Navy captain and consultant] said. “It’s what we do. We say, ‘This is international water and we will proudly sail in it, steam in it, or fly over it to protect our right to do so and others’ rights, as well.”
I wonder if the plans presented are for Obama-era phony FONOPS that are nothing more than innocent passage that doesn't challenge claims of sovereignty; or actual FONOPS during which our warships conduct routine military operations as international law allows them to do. The latter would defend the status as international waters.
UPDATE: So why should we defer to China in waters near them (and on questions of an island nation)?
UPDATE: China does want the South China Sea all for themselves, letting others travel through it at their sufferance:
"We urge the U.S. not to take any actions that challenge China's sovereignty and security," [Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang] told a regular news briefing on Wednesday.
China would prefer it if we conducted FONOP Theater that is only innocent passage.
If we conduct a true FONOP, the ship should have plenty of assets in overwatch in case the Chinese try to ensnare our warship with "civilian" assets that ram or try to disable the ship in its passage.