The U.S. Navy’s Freedom of Navigation Operation around Subi Reef: Deciphering U.S. Signaling

National Interest – Since the United States sailed in the waters close to Subi Reef [5], a low-tide election (LTE) that China has built up into a massive artificial island, some experts [6] have charged that the U.S. bungled the operation by conducting an “innocent passage,” implicitly granting China a 12 nautical mile territorial sea around the LTE to which it is not entitled. This accusation is not valid, however, and reflects an incomplete understanding of what is admittedly a complicated element of the Law of the Sea Convention.