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Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its annual Freedom of Navigation (FON) Report for Fiscal Year 2021. During the period from October 1, 2020, through September 30, 2021, U.S. forces operationally challenged 37 different excessive maritime claims made by 26 different claimants throughout the world.
Excessive maritime claims are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. They include a variety of restrictions on the exercise of navigation and overflight rights and other freedoms. Unlawful maritime claims – or incoherent theories of maritime entitlements – pose a threat to the legal foundation of the rules-based international order. If left unchallenged, excessive maritime claims could limit the rights and freedoms enjoyed by every nation.
Upholding freedom of navigation as a principle supports unimpeded lawful commerce and the global mobility of U.S. forces. DoD’s freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.
DoD’s regular and routine operational challenges complement diplomatic engagements by the U.S. State Department and supports the longstanding U.S. national interest in freedom of the seas worldwide.
Each year, DoD releases an unclassified summarized FON Report identifying the broad range of excessive maritime claims that are challenged by U.S. forces. It also includes general geographic information to describe the location of FON assertions while still maintaining operational security of U.S. military forces.
As long as restrictions on navigation and overflight rights and freedoms that exceed the authority provided under international law persist, the United States will continue to challenge such unlawful maritime claims.
The United States will uphold the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea for the benefit of all nations—and will stand with like-minded partners doing the same.
Click to see previous DoD FON Reports.