By Eric Gomez and Doug Bandow
In the near future the U.S. Navy (USN) reportedly will sail within 12 nautical miles of islands claimed by China in the South China Sea (SCS). This is welcome news for those who believe that Washington’s weakness in the face of China’s “blatantly illegal” island reclamation campaign has encouraged Beijing’s bad behavior. Now the question is: what comes next?
The idea that FONOPS will rein in Chinese actions in the SCS is appealing. Administration critics charge that China has been making all the right moves to bolster its territorial claims while the United States sits on its hands. However, FONOPS will not resolve SCS territorial disputes. In fact, this approach likely will complicate U.S.-Chinese relations and make a peaceful settlement of territorial disputes more difficult.