The Pentagon is now scheduling naval patrols in the South China Sea in order to establish a more prominent presence in the region as relations between the U.S. and China become more tense.
This naval patrol schedule is unprecedented and departs from standard military operations in the area during the less structured planning during Obama administration, when many of these naval patrols were canceled or postponed over political issues.
U.S. officials confirmed that the U.S. Pacific Command will be executing “freedom-of-navigation operations” approximately two or three times each month in an attempt to confront the Chinese amid their claims regarding sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and surrounding waters, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Since President Trump has taken office, a total of three navigations patrols have occurred. In contrast, only four were conducted during the entire Obama administration. As a result, China has criticized the U.S. of militarizing navigation by increasing the regularity of these patrols.
The schedule is designed to increase the consistency of the patrols.
Officials say this plan is consistent with the Trump administration’s management style concerning military operations, where commanders are given autonomy in planning certain military operations.
This announcement coincides with the U.S. seeking more compliance from China to assist in minimizing North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program. The Trump administration has previously stated China could do more to ensure weapons are not being developed and do not threaten the U.S. and its territories and allies.