The U.S. military used freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPs, to challenge 28 excessive maritime claims by 19 nations worldwide in fiscal 2020, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
That marks a reduction from fiscal 2019, when U.S. forces challenged 36 maritime claims by 22 countries, according to Defense Department data.
The Pentagon does not make public precisely how many FONOPs are undertaken in a given year, though most are conducted by U.S. Navy ships to challenge claims on waters that are international by law.
Such claims run counter to lawful commerce “and the global mobility of U.S. forces,” the Pentagon said in its announcement of its Fiscal 2020 FONOP report to Congress.
“As long as restrictions on navigation and overflight rights and freedoms that exceed the authority provided under international law persist, the United States will continue to challenge such unlawful maritime claims,” the Pentagon said.
China’s claims to the East China and South China seas were the subject of the most FONOPs by the United States last fiscal year, and U.S. forces also challenged Iran’s claims in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.
But claims by allies were also challenged, including Japan’s claim to the Tsushima Strait, as well as South Korea’s territorial claims to the Yellow Sea.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of FONOPs conducted by the U.S. military in FY 2020. The military does not disclose the exact number of these missions, but 28 excessive maritime claims were challenged by one or more FONOPS in the last fiscal year.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.