The U.S. Navy has fallen behind scheduled and failed to conduct regular naval maneuvers in the South China Sea meant to challenge the Chinese government’s territorial claims of the area and intimidate the Chinese military. Jeff Smith, director of Asian Security Programs at the American Foreign Policy Council, has stated that the U.S. Navy has failed to conduct freedom-of-navigation trips through the South China Sea despite making a pledge to conduct two trips through the region per quarter. Only three operations have been conducted this year. One in September, one in January and the last occurring in May.
Over 140 days have passed since the last operation was launched. Several congressmen and military officials have urged the Obama administration to conduct more frequent trips through the region. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is one of the most outspoken proponents of the trips. He said after the last trip was conducted:
“I continue to hope these operations will become so routine that China and other claimants will come to accept them as normal occurrences and releasing press statements to praise them will no longer be necessary,”
The trips are meant to infringe on the Chinese government’s false territory claims and come uncomfortably close to some of the man-made islands the Chinese have constructed, and militarized, in the area. The last freedom-of-navigation trip reportedly brought U.S. Destroyer the USS William P. Lawrence within 12 nautcial miles of Fiery Cross Reef.