As it turns out, the USS Lassen reportedly did not engage in a FONOPS to demonstrate that the islands China has built exert no right to territorial waters reaching out 12 nautical miles. Instead, the U.S. ship reportedly conducted “innocent passage,” turning off its radars and grounding its helicopters as it transited within 12 nautical miles of the islands. Undertaking “innocent passage” is done only in another nation’s territorial waters.
In short, the United States, by its actions, may have actually recognized China’s claims. If the reports are correct, the United States treated the artificial island atop Subi Reef as though it were a naturally occurring feature, and therefore entitled to a 12 nautical mile band of territorial water. This is precisely the opposite of what had been announced.
Like it or not, the message that the White House is now repeatedly sending is that the United States, in fact, accepts that the Chinese artificial islands should be treated as national territory, like a natural feature. In short, the United States is acceding to China’s efforts to close off portions of the open ocean.
Oh FRAK! *THAT* is a colossal frak up.
Someone, PLEASE, tell me this is not what happened!