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7th Fleet Destroyer conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation in South China Sea

16 February 2021

From 7th Fleet Public Affairs

On Feb. 17 (local time) USS Russell (DDG 59) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law.

SOUTH CHINA SEA - On Feb. 17 (local time) USS Russell (DDG 59) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law. This freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging unlawful restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

U.S. Navy Ensign Ryan Simpson, from Baltimore, looks through a pair of binoculars on the bridge wing as the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 17, 2021) U.S. Navy Ensign Ryan Simpson, from Baltimore, looks through a pair of binoculars on the bridge wing as the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin)
U.S. Navy Ensign Ryan Simpson, from Baltimore, looks through a pair of binoculars on the bridge wing as the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations.
210217-N-FZ335-1095
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 17, 2021) U.S. Navy Ensign Ryan Simpson, from Baltimore, looks through a pair of binoculars on the bridge wing as the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin)
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin
VIRIN: 210217-N-FZ335-1096
U.S. Sailors stand watch at the helm on the bridge as the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 17, 2021) U.S. Sailors stand watch at the helm on the bridge as the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin)
U.S. Sailors stand watch at the helm on the bridge as the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations.
210217-N-FZ335-1128
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 17, 2021) U.S. Sailors stand watch at the helm on the bridge as the guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin)
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin
VIRIN: 210217-N-FZ335-1129
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 17, 2021) The guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin)
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 17, 2021) The guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin)
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 17, 2021) The guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin)
210217-N-FZ335-1111
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 17, 2021) The guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) conducts routine underway operations. Russell is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin)
Photo By: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wade Costin
VIRIN: 210217-N-FZ335-1112

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

The United States challenges excessive maritime claims around the world regardless of the identity of the claimant. The international law of the sea as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention provides for certain rights and freedoms and other lawful uses of the sea to all nations. The international community has an enduring role in preserving the freedom of the seas, which is critical to global security, stability, and prosperity.

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VIDEO | 01:04 | 7th Fleet Destroyer conducts Freedom of Navigation Operation in South China Sea

The United States upholds freedom of navigation as a principle. As long as some countries continue to assert maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and that purport to restrict unlawfully the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all States, the United States will continue to defend those rights and freedoms. No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms.

China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines each claim sovereignty over some or all of the Spratly Islands. China, Vietnam, and Taiwan require either permission or advance notification before a foreign military vessel engages in “innocent passage” through the territorial sea. Under international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, the ships of all States –including their warships –enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea. The unilateral imposition of any authorization or advance-notification requirement for innocent passage is not permitted by international law. By engaging in innocent passage without giving prior notification to or asking permission from any of the claimants, the United States challenged these unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The United States demonstrated that innocent passage may not be subject to such restrictions.

U.S. forces operate in the South China Sea on a daily basis, as they have for more than a century. They routinely operate in close coordination with like-minded allies and partners who share our commitment to uphold a free and open international order that promotes security and prosperity. All of our operations are designed to be conducted professionally and in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows –regardless of the location of excessive maritime claims and regardless of current events.

Summaries of U.S. freedom of navigation assertions are released publicly in the annual “DoD Freedom of Navigation Report.” Past reports are available online at https://policy.defense.gov/OUSDP-Offices/FON/

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