US challenged China, India on navigation rights


With an aim to demonstrate that the international community does not accept any attempt to restrict access by other countries, the US military conducted “freedom of navigation” operations against 13 countries last year, including India and China. The Pentagon in its annual report said that it exercised its right of freedom of navigation multiple times against India, China, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, the Philippines and Vietnam. However, the report did not specify how many such operations were conducted against each of those countries. The “freedom of navigation” operations involve sending US Navy ships and military aircraft into areas where other countries have tried to limit access.

The US military has frequently conducted operations disputing China’s maritime claims in recent years. Recently, Beijing has increased island-building activity in the South China Sea that triggered tensions in the region. A US guided-missile destroyer conducted a “freedom of navigation” patrol near one of China’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago in October.

In 2014, the US had challenged territorial claims of 18 countries including India, China and Brazil. China claims that the US is unnecessarily targeting it. On the other hand, the Pentagon says it conducts freedom of navigation operations around the world.

China’s defense ministry said in a statement on its website that it was deeply concerned by such operations. “The United States carries out militarisation in the South China Sea in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight, threatens coastal nations’ sovereignty and security and destroys regional peace and stability,” the statement added. As of now, India has not officially reacted to the report.

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