Senators Ask Trump to Resume Freedom of Navigation

A bipartisan group of seven US Senators sent a letter to President Donald Trump Wednesday expressing concern that “the United States has not conducted regular and routine Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea since October 2016.” The letter, written by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), was signed by four Democrats and three Republicans. It makes reference to the recent congressional testimony of Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command, that “China’s militarization of the South China Sea is real,” and it outlines the strategic importance of that sea, which carries 30 percent of world maritime trade annually, including “$1.2 trillion in shipborne trade bound for the United States.” While the senators state that the US “takes no position on competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea,” they point to “a series of aggressive steps” China has taken in the region recently and stress that Freedom of Navigation Operations “are essential elements of larger US strategy to safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the Asia-Pacific.” The letter closes with the lawmakers urging the President to “take necessary steps to routinely exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.”