Golez: US Navy stalks Mischief Reef & Ayungin.
“US FONOPs: Game on again in the South China Sea” https://t.co/i3mret7xm7, via @LowyInstitute..
Golez: This freedom of navigation run of the US Navy is the most aggressive so far as it comes within 12 nautical miles of two features within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone: Mischief Reef and Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), both of which have been adjudged by the Hague Tribunal is being part of our exclusive economic zone. This clearly manifests the support of the US to our claim and right under the Hague tribunal ruling. The US should make it a policy to have a constant presence in the area. I quote from this article:
"Mischief Reef was the obvious choice for a FONOP given it, and its Second Thomas Shoal feature nearby, were found by the Tribunal in The Hague dealing with the arbitration instituted by the Philippines against China to be low-tide elevations with no entitlement to a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or continental shelf. The Tribunal also concluded that both features form part of the EEZ and continental shelf of the Philippines.
"The Tribunal found as a matter of fact that China had protected and failed to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ EEZ at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal, and had constructed installations and artificial islands at Mischief Reef without authorisation from the Philippines. The Tribunal therefore concluded that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights with respect to its EEZ and continental shelf. As an artificial island built up from a reef covered at high water, Mischief Reef is only entitled under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to a 500m safety zone around it.
"Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal rate highly in the national psyche of the Philippines. They are well within the EEZ of the Philippines, and China’s activities on and around them have been a vexed issue between the two countries for many years. In the late 1990s, China built structures to protect fishermen on Mischief Reef, sparking furious protests from the Philippines. The Philippines subsequently ran an old landing ship aground on Second Thomas Shoal, using it as living quarters for a group of marines tasked with protecting Philippine sovereignty over the feature. However, in recent years, Chinese ships have regularly disrupted Philippine attempts to resupply or rotate these marines.
"The selection of Mischief Reef for the recent FONOP raises the question as to what particular freedom of navigation the US was seeking to exercise. If it was the right of a warship to innocent passage in a territorial sea, then it could be construed as an acceptance of Chinese sovereignty over the feature. But if it was to demonstrate a high seas freedom of navigation past a feature not entitled to a territorial sea, then the operation might have been conducted more aggressively with, for example, the firing of weapons and the launching of the ship’s helicopter (all activities prohibited during innocent passage but acceptable high seas freedoms). This point should be clarified, but the US is unlikely to do so. It is sufficient, in Washington’s view, for the US to conduct a FONOP without risking criticisms of acting provocatively or being more assertive. Washington probably appreciates the point that more provocative actions in the South China Sea may not win friends in the region."