Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) are regularly conducted by the United States Navy globally, challenging ‘excessive maritime claims’ of coastal states which they accuse of illegally constraining Freedom of Navigation (FON) for commercial and/or military vessels. Those conducted in the South China Sea have growing strategic salience, given concerns China is attempting to carve away this maritime area under its exclusive control, altering the regional geopolitical landscape and setting a precedence for others to do the same. The United Kingdom and France have also begun conducting FONOPs with other allied navies augmenting their presence operations in these waters as well. The possibility of an ask by Washington to participate and/or more assertive demands by Beijing for foreign navies to leave these waters—which Canadian warships are increasingly frequenting–warrants clarification by Ottawa on Canada’s position on FONOPs. Their silence on this matter, however, is not simply a function of regional considerations, but also most likely due to their implications in waters closer to home in the Arctic.
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