An Incomplete Report on US Military Activities in the South China Sea in 2019

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2020-03-28 | SCSPI

In 2019, the US armed forces continued to carry out intensive military activities in the South China Sea, with their strategic platforms coming in and out of the region frequently, sea and air reconnaissance forces conducting various operations vigorously, the freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) near China’s stationed islands and reefs in the South China Sea increasing rapidly, and military diplomacy intensifying unprecedentedly.

Trajectories of one RQ-4 Global Hawks on November 11 to 12, 2019, source:


Though the US has become slightly more prudent in its words and deeds with regard to the military conflicts with China in the South China Sea, its operations in this region, in terms of both scale and intensity, have been significantly reinforced, compared to those in 2018. With the continual military exercises and various drills of the US armed forces and the rushing deployment of forces and platforms in the South China Sea, the region has become a front line of the maritime strategic competition between China and the US.


In 2019, the US military continued improving its presence and operation intensity in the South China Sea, with its moves more targeted towards China. To implement its Indo-Pacific Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy, the US will continue to increase its presence and conduct more military operations against China.




Ⅰ. The US strategic platforms conducted missions frequently, demonstrating increasing deterrence against China

Ⅱ. The US Navy and Air forces intensively conducted reconnaissance and intelligence operations

Ⅲ. The FONOPs were becoming more frequent and normalized

Ⅳ. Various military exercises kept building up to greater capacity for joint combat and operation

Ⅴ. The US Coast Guard became an emerging force

Ⅵ. Conclusion and Prospect

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With a view to maintaining and promoting the peace, stability and prosperity of the South China Sea, we launched the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI). The Initiative aims to integrate intellectual resources and open source information worldwide and keep track of important actions and major policy changes of key stakeholders and other parties involved. It will provide professional data services and analysis reports to parties concerned, helping them keep competition under control, and seek partnerships.