Given the further flouting of both international law and personal commitments, it is left to the United States as the ultimate guarantor of freedom of the seas to use its indispensable capabilities to block Beijing’s maritime aggression. Fortunately, British, French, Australian and other allies are joining in the U.S. Navy’s Freedom of Navigation Operations.
China wants to stop this multinational “ganging up” and probably is weighing whether to cause an incident directly against a U.S. Navy ship or aircraft, as one of its fighter jets did against an EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft in 2001, or to choose an allied target instead and complicate a U.S. response.
The Taiwan Strait provides another arena for Beijing to defy Western “containment’ and “violations of Chinese sovereignty.” After years of the U.S. Navy avoiding the Strait for fear of antagonizing China, the Trump administration has removed the restriction and allowed frequent routine transits. Now, allied navies also are making their presence known, incurring the ire of Beijing. An incident there is a real possibility, against an American or allied unit, or against a Taiwanese ship or plane.