South China Sea: Why US is Unlikely to Halt Provocative FONOPs in the Foreseeable Future


Washington continues to aggravate tensions in the South China Sea by sending two littoral warships in the region. The US seeking to maintain the upper hand in the disputed waters regardless of Beijing’s warning against muscle-flexing in the area.

The US has dispatched two Independence-class vessels, the USS Gabrielle Giffords and USS Montgomery, to the South China Sea, while US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has vowed to proceed with freedom of navigation missions in the disputed waters.

In a press briefing Tuesday, Esper called upon claimant nations in the South China Sea to safeguard their interests in the region: “I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to take a very public posture and to assert our sovereign rights and to emphasise the importance of law”, he said.

On Monday, Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe urged Esper to “stop flexing muscles in the South China Sea and to not provoke and escalate tensions in the South China Sea” during a closed door meeting on the sidelines of an ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting in Bangkok.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea. The other claimants to the area include Brunei, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

US Seeking to Maintain Dominance in South China Sea

Chen Xiangmao, a research fellow at the National Institute for the South China Sea, is doubtful that Washington will lend a sympathetic ear to Beijing stressing that the US is seeking to maintain dominance in the…

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