US Warship Poses Free Navigation 'Challenge' to Russian Federation

Clay Curtis
December 7, 2018

A Russian warship and aircraft escorted an American destroyer in the Pacific Ocean, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow said on Thursday, after the U.S. Navy said it had sailed near contested waters in the Sea of Japan.

The Kremlin claims ownership of the entire Peter the Great Bay region, named after the first emperor of Russian Federation.

Pacific Fleet stressed to CNN that Wednesday's freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) was "not about any one country, nor are they about current events", adding, "These operations demonstrate the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows".

Kyle Raines, a spokesman for the Fleet, which oversees naval operations in the region, told CNN, adding, "We routinely conduct operations to advance security and stability throughout the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to include the global waters and airspace of the Black Sea".

She said: "These operations demonstrate the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows. That is true in the Sea of Japan, as in other places around the globe".

The United States does not recognize Russia's claims to the entirety of Peter the Great Bay.

The Navy official said the operation was not meant to single out Russian Federation, but is part of a comprehensive approach by the service to keep worldwide sea lanes open.

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The freedom-of-navigation was similar to those that the United States regularly conducts in the South China Sea, often provoking China.

The US Navy regularly conducts FONOPS in the South China Sea, much to China's displeasure.

The US Pacific Fleet destroyer, "USS McCampbell", entered the Sea of Japan on Wednesday. Last week, the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancelorsville "sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by worldwide law".

The McCampbell's operation comes at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington.

The United States has also objected to Russia's seizing of three Ukrainian vessels it accused of having trespassed on Russian waters in the Black Sea last month.

Last week Donald Trump cancelled a planned meeting with Mr Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina because of Russia's renewed campaign of aggression against Ukraine.

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