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South China Sea has most excessive maritime claims challenged by United States

MANILA, Philippines — Excessive maritime claims advanced by China and two other claimants in the South China Sea (SCS) were the most operationally challenged by United States forces under the Freedom of Navigation program, according to the latest annual US Department of Defense FON report.

The defense department released Thursday its annual FON Report for fiscal year 2023. During the period from Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2023, US forces operationally challenged 29 different excessive maritime claims advanced by 17 different claimants throughout the world.

Excessive maritime claims are unlawful attempts by coastal states to restrict the rights and freedoms of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea.

These are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They include a variety of restrictions on the exercise of navigation and overflight rights and other freedoms and lawful uses of the seas.

“If left unchallenged, excessive maritime claims could permanently infringe upon the freedom of the seas enjoyed by all nations,” the department said.

The Annual Freedom of Navigation Report 2023 identified excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea by China, Vietnam and Taiwan that were challenged by US FON Program.

Challenged were China’s straight baselines not drawn in conformance with international law or the Chinese government’s Declaration on the Baselines of the Territorial Sea; requiring prior approval for military survey activities in the exclusive economic zone; restrictions on foreign aircraft flying through an Air Defense Identification Zone without the intent to enter national airspace; requiring prior permission for innocent passage of foreign military ships through the territorial sea; and Beijing’s claims of “historic rights” in the South China Sea.

Also challenged were Taiwan requiring prior notice for foreign military vessels to conduct innocent passage in the territorial sea and Vietnam’s straight baselines that do not conform with UNCLOS and imposing prior notification for foreign warships to enter the territorial sea.

The US rejected unlawful and sweeping