Building a Normative Order in the South China Sea
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Building a Normative Order in the South China Sea

Evolving Disputes, Expanding Options

Edited by Truong T. Tran, John B. Welfield and Thuy T. Le

The South China Sea, where a number of great powers and regional players contend for influence, has emerged as one of the most potentially explosive regions in the world today. What can be done to reduce the possibility of conflict, solve the outstanding territorial problems, and harness the potential of the sea to promote regional development, environmental sustainability and security? This book, with contributions from leading authorities in China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, Singapore and the United States, seeks to illuminate these questions.
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Chapter 9: Maritime claims in the South China Sea and freedom of navigation operations

Jonathan G. Odom


Among the four categories of territorial-maritime claims existing in the South China Sea, only one of those categories of claims is challenged by Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs): specifically, excessive maritime claims that have been enacted domestically by several of the claimant states, but that are inconsistent with international law. FONOPs are lawful as matter of international law and are legitimate as a policy option, because state action is important in preventing excessive maritime claims from becoming accepted. Yet some of the complicating factors in the South China Sea, such as a deliberate lack of clarity by some of the claimant States about some of their maritime claims, make it more difficult to conduct FONOPs in some portions of that body of water. Nonetheless, the United States and other like-minded States should conduct FONOPs and other presence operations in the South China Sea on a routine basis, in order to preserve the freedom of the seas that is guaranteed to all nations under international law.

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