Senator Whitehouse replied that exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of every country form a sustainable network of EEZs that have been established based on international conventions and laws, as well as on mutual understanding, which help avoid conflicts and maintain stability in EEZs.
Therefore, whenever a challenge appears and poses a threat to peace and stability in EEZs, then not only the U.S. but also the entire world community will take action against the threat, the senator said. [emphasis added]
Such a case has occurred and the U.S and other countries have responded against it, he added.
[Thanks] to the PRC’s aggressive adoption of non-military measures, from subsidizing and equipping its fishing fleet for South China Sea forays to plunking billion-dollar exploratory drilling rigs in contested EEZs … the idea now is that the best way for Vietnam and the Philippines to push back might be by interposing US naval muscle.
As potential harbingers, US surveillance aircraft overflew Chinese maritime patrol vessels during the resupply of marines on the beached Philippine hulk Sierra Madre at Second Thomas Shoal in April 2014 (amped up surveillance is considered to be an important weapon in “gray zone” crises, the term of art for confrontations that tiptoe to the brink of military conflict, but don’t quite cross). In May, the USS Blue Ridge, the Seventh Fleet's flagship, ostentatiously sailed past the current PRC-Philippine hot spot, the Scarborough Shoal, and launched a helicopter to observe and photograph two PLAN warships in the vicinity.
Maybe in the future US naval vessels interpose themselves as Chinese maritime patrol vessels try to harass survey and drilling ships in disputed Philippine and Vietnamese EEZs; maybe the next time the HYSY 981 parks itself in contested waters, US ships interdict its resupply.
Plenty of options.
The United States and Vietnam should expedite the agreement for cooperation between their Coast Guards. So far the training has taken place on land in the form of short courses. The U.S. Coast Guard should be deployed to Vietnamese waters for joint training and involve the exchange of observers on each other’s ships. Vietnam recently joined the Proliferation Security Initiative. This provides an opportunity for the United States to assist Vietnam further develop its capacity for maritime domain awareness.
Regional security analysts expect China to mount aggressive naval displays in the South China Sea every year from May to August moving forward. This provides an opportunity for the United States and Japan to organize a series of continuing maritime exercises and surveillance flights with Vietnam and the Philippines just prior to the arrival of Chinese forces and throughout the period from April to August each year. The details of all operations should be completely transparent to all regional states including China.
An indirect strategy provides the means for the United States to give practical expression to its declaratory policy of opposing intimidation and coercion to settle territorial disputes. An indirect strategy does not require the United States to directly confront China. This strategy puts the onus on China to decide the risk of confronting mixed formations of naval vessels and aircraft involving the United States, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
These combined maritime and air forces would operate in international waters and airspace that transverse China’s nine-dash line. The objective would be to maintain a continuous naval and air presence to deter China from using intimidation and coercion against Vietnam and the Philippines. Deterrence could be promoted by interchanging the naval and aircrews in all exercises. The scope and intensity of these exercises could be altered in response to the level of tensions.
Elements of the flotilla should remain at sea from March through July, ready to stymie another Chinese deployment simply by getting in the way. Such a concerted show of paramilitary strength would demonstrate that the littoral nations and their friends will no longer tolerate China’s salami-slicing tactics. There is a downside risk of deliberate collisions and the use of water cannons, tactics employed by China against Vietnam this summer. However, the more likely scenario is that Chinese vessels will choose to avoid confrontation on equal or near-equal terms, in effect resetting Chinese tactical assumptions and opening the way for more rational and mutually respectful outcomes.