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USS Preble and HMAS Melbourne conducted FONOP in the South China Sea


On Monday May 20, in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) and the Royal Australian Navy Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near the Scarborough Shoal, in the South China Sea, to push back against Chinese maritime claims.


USS Preble and HMAS Melbourne conducted FONOP in the South China Sea The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) and the Royal Australian Navy Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) transit in formation during a cooperative deployment on April 18, 2019 (Picture Source: U.S. Navy)


This FONOP mission follows several others earlier this year, as the Navy and Pentagon seek to make FONOPs more routine. Earlier this month, Preble and USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93) steamed within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the South China Sea. In February, Preble and USS Spruance (DDG-111) steamed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, an artificial island China built up in the Spratly Islands chain. In January, USS McCampbell (DDG-85) steamed past the Paracel Islands.

The U.S. Navy has even increased the rate of its FONOPS in the South China Sea since the U.S. government has decided to raise import duties on lots of Chinese products. The U.S. forces are often accompanied by allied navies such as the Australian one, the Japanese one or even the French one.

China reacted to the operation, through the voice of the spokesman of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command, Senior Colonel Li Huamin. He said that USS Preble intruded into Chinese waters without permission of the Chinese government.

He added that, in response to this manoeuver, China soon sent naval ships and air force aircraft to conduct identification and verification of the U.S. and Australian warships, according to laws and regulations, and warned it to leave this area. He then added that "China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters, and we are firmly opposed to the provocative behaviour of the US warship”.