Executive Intelligence Review


U.S. Naval Operations Chief Seeks Firmer Rules To Prevent Naval Conflicts in South China Sea

Feb. 7, 2019 (EIRNS)—Speaking at meeting of the Atlantic Council in Washington on Feb. 6, Adm. John Richardson, the 31st Chief of Naval Operations and reportedly an adviser to President Donald Trump, said it is necessary to firm up rules governing naval encounters in disputed waters such as the South China Sea, where near misses between warships continue to test territorial claims and rights to free navigation, South China Morning Post reported today. “Let’s not be obstructing one another, driving our ships in front of one another, throwing obstacles in front of the ship,” he said.

Rules based on a transponder-based automatic identification system could be used to share vital information among ships to avoid collisions, Richardson said. “So, just putting in some of these enforcement mechanisms makes it harder to play fast and loose with the rules,” the admiral said. “But you’ve got to make a move to enforce those things. I think a lot of that structure exists, it’s just we’ve got to be a little more muscular in enforcing it.”

Richardson, who was in China last month, said when he met with his Chinese counterpart, Commander of the PLA Navy Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, and Gen. Li Zuocheng, Chief of the Central Military Commission Joint Staff, discussions took place to seek a deeper understanding and minimize the risk of conflict.

“Our thinking is different, [yet] we have common interests in many areas. I would say a denuclearized Korean Peninsula is an area where we share common interests,”

Richardson said. “We have differences, some big differences, in terms of how we consider the South China Sea.”

China and the United States agreed to a document in spring 2014 to prevent miscalculations and unanticipated escalations of encounters at sea. The voluntary Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) among 21 states, including the United States, China and ASEAN, governs communications protocols for naval crews, but is voluntary and not legally binding.