USS Lassen operation is US commitment to freedom of navigation – US Senator

  • Senator John McCain welcomes Obama’s decision to allow the sailing of USS Lassen near China’s fake islands
  • He says it is a long overdue move, but an otherwise welcome development
  • McCain urges Washington to assert international law, and must not exempt China

A ranking American official said the sailing of US guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen within 12 miles of the Spratly’s is a long overdue move, yet a welcome development in the heated debate over freedom of navigation in South China Sea/West Philippine Sea between Washington and Beijing.

US Senator John McCain lauded President Barack Obama for finally allowing the freedom of navigation (FON) operations to be conducted in the hotly-contested waters where China has claimed ‘absolute sovereignty ‘ and has been building fake islands over the past months.

“I am pleased the US Navy has finally been allowed to conduct Freedom of Navigation operations within 12 nautical miles of China’s manmade land features in the South China Sea,” McCain said in a statement.

“This decision is long overdue. And I have been dismayed, though hardly surprised, as this administration’s apparent confusion and indecision has played out before the world over the last several months,” the Republican senator added.

McCain, however, urged Washington to keep the FON operations not just a “sporadic spectacle to behold,” but an “ordinary and consistent demonstrations of our nation’s commitment to uphold the freedom of the seas.”

On Tuesday, the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi and Mischief Reefs presently occupied by Chinese troops; a move vehemently protested by Beijing as an ‘irresponsible’ act, warning Washington against stirring trouble in the already fragile, tension-filled territory.

A senior US official described the step as a “necessary and overdue response to China’s destabilizing behavior in the region,” and should be the first of the series of drastic moves to challenge China’s claim of sovereignty over what is generally regarded as international waters and airspace

McCain said US should not waver despite recurring threats and warnings from its communist rival since the FON operation is valid and legal under international laws, and China should not be exempted from them.

“As China mounts increasingly routine challenges to the freedom of the seas throughout the Asia-Pacific region, it is more important than ever that the United States fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” the American senator stressed.

“And the South China Sea must be no exception,” he added.