The United States exercised a “freedom of navigation” operation in the South China Sea this weekend, once again challenging China’s growing colonization of international waters in the region.
The USS Decatur, a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, successfully traversed the South China Sea, sending a message to the Chinese government that the United States will not be intimated by communist regime threats and escalations of tensions.
The Pentagon issued a statement following the exercise and asserted it was “routine” and happened without any incident.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest said of the exercise, according to CNN, “the point was to let China know that it cannot ‘unlawfully restrict the navigation rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea that the United States and all states are entitled to exercise under international law.'”
As CNN noted, tensions between the United States and China over the South China Sea have been increasing over the past two years. However, in recent months, it has risen dramatically as China has moved to hold joint naval operations with Russia in the region and further developed artificial islands in waters belonging to Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan, among other states.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia officially supports China’s claims in the South China Sea, though the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague found last summer that the territorial claim had no basis. “We stand in solidarity and support of China’s position on this issue – not to recognize the decision of this court,” Putin said, calling his stance “purely legal.”
“It lies in the fact that any arbitration proceedings should be initiated by the disputing parties, while the arbitration court should hear the arguments and positions of the disputing parties. As you know, China did not address the Hague arbitration and no one listened to its position there. How can you recognize these decisions as fair?” Putin asked.
Russia is not the only country that has now aligned itself with China. Last week, Philippines’s President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly followed Russia’s lead and also aligned his country with China, saying that “America has lost.”
In late October, according to Breitbart News, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte visited China, stating there that “he will work to strengthen ties with China, a nation that has usurped large swaths of Philippine territory in the South China Sea.” During this same trip, Duterte also attacked President Obama calling him, once again, a “son of a whore.”