Dec 23, 2020 / 09:13

USS John S. McCain conducts FONOP in East Sea

Washington said the US challenges excessive maritime claims around the world regardless of the identity of the claimant.

The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain on December 22 sailed near Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Vietnam) in another demonstration of freedom of maritime navigation, according to the US Seventh Fleet.

 Transits through South China Sea while conducting routine underway operations. Photo: MC2 Markus Castaneda/US Navy

USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is consistent with international law, the fleet said, noting that this freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law.

All interactions with foreign military forces were consistent with international norms and did not impact the operation, according to a statement from Lt. Joe Keiley, Seventh Fleet (7th Fleet) spokesman.

“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations,” read the statement.

 Conning Officer Ensign Joseph Hurd, from Foley, Alabama, gives course and speed orders to the helm while standing watch on the bridge wing as the McCain conducts operations. Photo: MC2 Markus Castaneda/US Navy

International media reported that the ship passed near Chinese military installations on Gaven Reef (Ga Ven in Vietnamese) and Johnson South Reef (Gac Ma in Vietnamese), the reefs under Vietnam’s sovereignty that were seized by China in 1988.

A Chinese warship shadowed McCain during the operation, but all interactions were deemed "safe and professional," an official told Fox News.

The McCain is forward-deployed to the US 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

On October 9, the McCain’s last demonstration in the South China Sea put it near the Paracel Islands, northwest of the Spratlys.

Seventh Fleet is the largest of the US Navy’s forward deployed fleets. At any given time, there are 60-70 ships, 200-300 aircraft and 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to the US 7th Fleet.

The Fleet’s area of operation spans more than 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border and from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South.