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Old 02-11-2019, 11:47 AM
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Arrow Two U.S. Guided-Missile Destroyers Conduct FONOP Past Mischief Reef in South China Se

Two U.S. Guided-Missile Destroyers Conduct FONOP Past Mischief Reef in South China Sea
By: Ben Werner / February 11, 2019 1:31 PM of USNI News

Photo link:
Sailors remove chalks and chains from a MH-60R Seahawk, assigned to the “Easyriders” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37, Detachment ONE, during flight quarters aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG-88). Navy photo

THE PENTAGON – Two U.S. guided-missile destroyers conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) past South China Sea land masses claimed by China but not recognized as islands by international law.

Monday, USS Spruance (DDG-111) and USS Preble (DDG-88) steamed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, which is an artificial island China has created to increase its territorial claims to the Spratly Islands chain, according to media reports. ABC News first reported the FONOP.

This is the second FONOP the U.S. Navy conducted in the South China Sea this year. A month ago, USS McCampbell (DDG-85) steamed past the Paracel Islands.

Navy officials at the Pentagon referred questions about the FONOP to U.S. Pacific Fleet, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

China routinely complains such FONOPS are illegal intrusions into its territorial waters. The U.S. Navy considers such operations in the South China Sea and around the globe as a way to combat what is deemed to be excessive maritime claims that are not in keeping with the spirit or intent of international law.

The Spratly Islands chain includes more than 100 islands and land masses claimed by China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, according to the CIA World Factbook. Mischief Reef is considered a low-tide elevation. Such features do not command a territorial sea under international maritime law.

Chinese government officials often issue a strongly worded statement issued in the days following a U.S. Navy FONOP. However, in October a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Luyang-class destroyer nearly collided with USS Decatur (DDG-73) when it conducted a similar FONOP in the region. The Luyang-class destroyer conducted a series of aggressive moves, including at one point coming within 45-yards of Decatur, which the U.S. Navy called “an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver.”

Meanwhile, Chinese and U.S. Navy forces are among the 46 nations taking part in the five-day AMAN-19 exercise hosted by Pakistan, according to a statement issued by China’s Ministry of Defense. The exercise focuses on cooperation among navies to conduct maritime security, counter-terrorism, and disaster relief operations, according to the Pakistan Navy.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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