Vice President Mike Pence has undertaken a kind of “freedom of navigation” operation of his own over the disputed South China Sea, an interview published Tuesday revealed ahead of Pence’s visit to Singapore for a series of meetings in the region.
In an interview with Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin in which Pence focused on the White House’s Indo-Pacific policy, the vice president said his trip to the region “is meant to show the United States has no intention of ceding influence or control” to Beijing.
As part of this push, Pence had met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday in Tokyo, where the two discussed, among other things, China’s increasingly assertive posture in both the South China Sea and broader region.
On the way from Tokyo to Singapore, where Pence was due to attend meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the vice president’s plane passed over the South China Sea — flying some 30 km (50 miles) — from the contested Spratly Island chain, where China has constructed military facilities on artificial islands.
Rogin quoted the vice president as telling him that “the flight was something of a freedom of navigation mission in and of itself.”
“We will not be intimidated,” Pence told him. “We will not stand down. We will continue to exercise freedom of navigation.”
The U.S. does not have a claim in the South China Sea, but the navy has conducted what it calls freedom of navigation operations, known as FONOPs, in the waterway. Those missions, Washington says, are meant to enforce the right of free passage in international waters under international law.
Beijing has lambasted the operations, claiming that it respects freedom of navigation, and that the FONOPs are merely a pretext for containing China.
China has repeatedly said that it has “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and its adjacent waters,” but Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims in the waterway, which includes vital sea lanes through which about $3 trillion in global trade passes each year and where the U.S., Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies also routinely operate.
Asked what would happen if Beijing fails to agree to act in Asia in a way that can avoid “a new Cold War” with the United States, Pence appeared to accept that such a reality could be inevitable.
NEWPORT — The explosion and sinking of the ship in 1943 claimed at least 1,138 lives, and while the sea swallowed the bones there were people, too, who also worked to shroud the bodies.
The sinking of the H.M.T. Rohna was the greatest loss of life at sea by enemy action in the history of U.S. war, but the British Admiralty demanded silence from the survivors and the tragedy was immediately classified by the U.S. War Department.
Michael Walsh of Newport is working to bring the story of the Rohna to the surface with a documentary film, which includes interviews with some of the survivors of the attack. Walsh has interviewed about 45 men who were aboard the ship when it was hit.
Editor's note: this story originally appeared in 2018
How you die matters. Ten years ago, on Memorial Day, I was in Fallujah, serving a year-long tour on the staff and conducting vehicle patrols between Abu Ghraib and Ramadi. That day I attended a memorial service in the field. It was just one of many held that year in Iraq, and one of the countless I witnessed over my 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Like many military veterans, Memorial Day is not abstract to me. It is personal; a moment when we remember our friends. A day, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth."