US military conducted fewer FONOPs in FY 2020


The U.S. military conducted 28 freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPs, in Fiscal Year 2020 to challenge excessive maritime claims by 19 nations worldwide, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

That marks a reduction from Fiscal 2019, when U.S. forces challenged 36 maritime claims by 22 countries, according to Defense Department data.

FONOPs are mostly conducted by U.S. Navy ships to challenge claims on waters that are international by law.

Such claims run counter to lawful commerce “and the global mobility of U.S. forces,” the Pentagon said in its announcement of its Fiscal 2020 FONOP report to Congress.

“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 Pentagon said.

China’s claims to the East China and South China seas were the subject of the most FONOPs by the United States last fiscal year, and U.S. forces also challenged Iran’s claims in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

But claims by allies were also challenged, included Japan’s claim to the Tsushima Strait, as were South Korea territorial claims to the Yellow Sea.

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Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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