One U.S. defense official said the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef. A second defense official said the mission, which lasted a few hours, also included Mischief Reef and would be the first in a series of freedom-of-navigation exercises aimed at testing China's territorial claims.
|YOU ARE STANDING INTO DANGER
|Reefs and Shoals in the South China Sea
The navy calls these FONs. It stands for Freedom of Navigation and it is the means we use to abide by the international law of the sea that we recognize. Basically, if one doesn't exert one's rights, one loses them. We played this game for decades with the Soviet Union and other grasping communist, muslim and socialist tyrannies. Usually they met with success. Sometimes they ran into trouble. Trouble is a matter of life and death, not a matter of getting a dent or the paint scraped off some piece of hull as you can see from the shameful Hainan Island Incident in 2001.
The last FON that was not a FON but close enough for government work, involved the loss of a US Navy spy plane with all the latest and greatest spy gear, communications and equipment when it was damaged by a Chinese Air Force plane and decided it had no choice but to turn over all of America's embarked, hard won, top secret technology to the Chinese rather than crash land in the deep ocean and let it all sink to the bottom.
I don't think anything like that is going to happen to LASSEN but I am concerned about 'pirate submarines' in the South China Sea. I enjoyed the wordplay in Strategy and Policy when we discussed the pirate submarines in the Spanish Civil War. From the excellent book by Tom Buchanan, Britain and the Spanish Civil War
There's another problem with running USN warships around reefs in the South China Sea. The Navy's charts aren't very accurate or reliable.
|USS GUARDIAN turned to scrap by reef not on chart