The latest American assertion of freedom-of-navigation rights in the South China Sea may have reassured some that new bonhomie between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping won’t lead to abandonment of the region. But questions remain. On May 24, the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey passed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, a land feature occupied by China in the South China Sea. Analysts who had followed and criticized China’s campaign to control the sea, upon learning of this Freedom of Navigation Operation may have shared the same thought: Finally!
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