The U.S. Navy has for years now sent warships through the South China Sea, past military outposts erected by the Chinese military on what were once mere reefs or sand bars.
The guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain conducted two FONOPs during the week of Christmas alone in the South China Sea.
But in 2020, the Navy undertook FONOPs elsewhere around the globe, in locations that had nothing to do with the Chinese.
Under the aegis of U.S. Southern Command, several warships steamed off the coast of Venezuela this year, sending a message to the regime of Nicolas Maduro that waters outside Caracas’ exclusive economic zone were international.
“The Russian Federation’s statement about this mission is false. USS John S. McCain was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory,” the 7th Fleet said.
In that incident, state-run Russian media quoted Russian officials as saying their ships threatened to ram the McCain and chased it away, a characterization the U.S. Navy disputed.