US Navy Challenged ‘Excessive’ Cambodia Maritime Claims

The U.S. military conducted a freedom of navigation operation that challenged claims made by Cambodia in two maritime areas between October 1, 2012, and September 30, 2013, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The one-page report by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy states that Cambodia made two maritime claims that the U.S. found to be “excessive” in terms of boundaries and the security of a maritime zone.

The report failed to explain anything about the maritime claims, only saying that the U.S. challenged them “in order to preserve the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations in international law.”

Freedom of navigation, or FON, is enshrined in international law and states that ships flying the flag of any sovereign state will not suffer interference from other states as they navigate through their waters.

The U.S. program actively challenges excessive maritime claims by states by carrying out operations in those disputed areas as a means to prevent restrictions on travel.

The report does say, though, that the U.S. made only a single challenge to Cambodia’s claims.

In 2012, the U.S. had made multiple challenges to claims made by Cambodia during the earlier period of October 1, 2011, to September 30, 2012, according to the 2012 FON report.

The 2013 report states that in addition to Cambodia, the U.S. last year challenged maritime claims made by 11 other countries, four of which are Southeast Asian nations: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

In each of the 11 other countries, the U.S. conducted more than one FON challenge, according to the report.

Sean McIntosh, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, referred questions to the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was unaware of the report and the U.S. naval challenges to Cambodia’s maritime claims.

“Cambodia is a sovereign state. I am not sure about these claims, but we do protect our own territory,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Mech Dara)

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