World Powers Unite and Sail to South China Sea
A constellation of some of the world’s most powerful countries has united in an unprecedented pushback against China’s expansion into the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.
Germany, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and the United Kingdom are all sending warships to the South China Sea in what is seen as the strongest rebuke yet of China’s militarization of the disputed area.
According to Australia’s News.com, an international task force centered on the U.K.’s 65,000-ton aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will arrive in Southeast Asia between April and June. The Netherlands will provide warship escorts to the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Early in February, France had sent ahead two of its warships to the area for a three-month mission, which includes interoperability exercises with the United States Navy. It dispatched its 21,000-ton amphibious assault helicopter carrier FS Tonnere and a fast frigate.
Germany is sending a frigate to Japan as a gesture of support for the Japanese against their disputes against China, according to News.com. Along the way, it will make port calls in Australia and South Korea.
Not an Innocent Passage
Among the missions of the loose coalition is to enforce freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea and other disputed waters, which China claims in whole.
Under international laws, military ships must pass through the territorial waters of another nation as quickly as possible through the most expedient route. This is called “innocent passage.”
FONOPs usually emphasize there is nothing innocent about their passage through the waters—effectively canceling China’s territorial claims over them. China cannot legitimize its claims on the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea if warships from all over the world keep “violating” its so-called sovereignty over those waters.
One way of doing this is by taking a zigzagging route within the disputed waters—to ensure warships don’t sail as expeditiously as possible nor take the most direct route to anywhere.
This clever move by international powers benefits the Philippines tremendously, as it prevents China from legitimizing its territorial claims over the West Philippine Sea.