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Thayer Consultancy Background Briefing:

ABN # 65 648 097 123

U.S. Freedom of Navigation
Patrols Draws Chinese Verbal
Carlyle A. Thayer
March 12, 2020
The People’s Liberation Army Southern Command Theatre issued a statement
rebuking the U.S. for letting the USS McCampbell sail unauthorised near the Paracel
Islands yesterday (see below).

We are preparing an analysis of China’s response to the USS McCampbell and request
your views.

ANSWER: The recent passage of the USS McCampbell (DDG-85) in waters near the
Paracel Islands is a standard U.S. Navy freedom of navigation operational patrol
(FONOP). It marks at least the second occasion that the USS McCampbell has traversed
these waters. And it marks at least the seventh FONOP conducted near the Paracels
under the Trump Administration (see Table below, data missing).

FONOPS are conducted to challenge the requirement for advanced notification or

approval to enter these waters by mainland China, Taiwan and Vietnam according to
official U.S. sources. The United States argues that international law does not require
advanced notification.

China has drawn straight base lines around the land features comprising the Paracel
archipelago, unlike the Spratly islands where China has not promulgated baselines.
The U.S. Navy challenges what it says are excessive Chinese claims to a maritime zone
based on these straight baselines. For example, Triton island is an outlying land feature
but China has extended its baselines around this feature.

US Freedom of Navigation Operational Patrols

Under the Trump Administration, 2017-2020
(Data incomplete)

1 USS Dewey (DDG-105) May 24, Mischief Reef and other artificial islands

2 USS Stethem (DDG- Jul y 2, 2017 Triton Island, Paracels


3 USS John S. McCain August 10, Mischief Reef

(DDG-56) 2017

4 USS Chafee (DDG-90) October 10, Paracel Islands


5 ? 2017

6 ? 2017 U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs Office reports

six FONOPS in 2017

7 USS Hopper (DDG-70) January 17, Scarborough Shoal


8 USS Mustin (DDG-89) March 23, Mischief Reef


9 USS Higgins (DDG-76) May 27, Tree, Woody, Triton and Lincoln islands,
and USS Antietam 2018 Paracels

10 USS Decatur (DDG 31) September Gaven and Johnson Reefs

30, 2018

11 USS Chancellorsville November Paracels

(CG-62) 2018

12 USS McCampbell January 7, Paracels

(DDG-85) 2019

13 USS Preble (DDG-88) February Mischief Reef

& USS Spruance (DDG- 2019

14 USS Preble (DDG-88) May 6, 2019 Gaven and Johnson Reefs, Spratlys
& USS Chung Hoon

15 USS Preble (DDG-88) May 19, Scarborough Shoal


16 USS Wayne E. Meyer Aug 28, Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs
(DDG-108) 2019

17 USS Wayne E. Meyer Sept 13, Paracels

(DDG-108) 2019

18 ? 2019

19 ? 2019

20 ? 2019 U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs Office reports

nine FONOPS in 2019

21 USS Montgomery January Fiery Cross reef

(LCS-8) 2020

22 USS McCampbell March 10, Paracels

(DDG-85) 2020

Statement by People’s Liberation Army Southern Command:


来源:国防部网责任编辑:丁杨2020-03-11 14:00



Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “U.S. Freedom of Navigation Patrols Draws

Chinese Verbal Fire,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, March 10, 2020. All
background briefs are posted on (search for Thayer). To remove yourself
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Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and
other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially
registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.