News on the Water

News on the Water

In the past month and more, all the news we hear about is the Coronavirus. So this article is about some other things that you may have missed and can worry about along with COVID-19.

First – the US has recently had some conflicts with Iran but most recently 11 Iranian gunships “swarmed” some US military vessels. These vessels were in the middle of training operations in international waters when the 11 gunboats “crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds,” according to a U.S Navy Statement.  It was also reported that one boat came within ten yards of the Coast Guard cutter Maui’s bow. In response to this and other Iranian threats, President Trump said he would take military action if this happened again. Specifically, he tweeted “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” So what does this mean with our future relationship with Iran?

However, this is not the only situation that occurred in April dealing with military and other ships. Off the coast of Venezuela, the RCGS Resolute, a cruise ship,  was attacked and rammed by a Venezuelan coastal patrol boat. From ramming the cruise ship the patrol boat started to take on water until it sunk. According to some on the cruise, it was said that the Venezuelan ship also shot at them to show a sign of aggression. The Venezuelan government accused the Resolute of an act of “aggression and piracy.”President Niolás Maduro has also stated in the past the US and other governments have tried to and continue to try to overthrow him. The Venezuelan government also stated that the Resolute was “transporting mercenaries to attack military bases in Venezuela.” This has neither been confirmed nor denied, but the Columbian Cruise Services said the cruise ship had been carrying out routine engine maintenance in international waters more than 13 nautical miles (24km) from La Tortuga. Some final notes about this incidence – it was said that the patrol boat rammed the starboard bow in order to try to turn the cruise towards Venezuelan waters. Also, the Venezuelan government said that the members of the Resolute acted in a “cowardly and criminal” behavior, “since it did not attend to the rescue of the crew.”

In addition to these incidents, the US sent two warships into the South China Sea in response to growing tensions with China. China  recently created Paracel Islands and the Spratly islands from Reefs and have established military bases there. The two ships that were sent were the SS Barry guided-missile destroyer and the USS Bunker Hill aircraft carrier. China has stated this is not a threat, but the US states that China has taken aggressive action and established  military outposts on the artificial islands. The sovereignty of these territories have been disputed by claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. According to international law, a large part of the South China Sea comes under Vietnamese sovereignty. Beijing however disagrees and says that the entire waterway up to the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Taiwan belongs to China. Note this claim was rejected by an international court of arbitration in 2016. In response to all this, the Chinese military accused the US of “provocative acts” that “seriously violated international law and China’s sovereignty and security interests.” However, US Naval Commander Reann Mommsen stated: “Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight and the right of innocent passage of all ships.”

Finally back to Iran. After the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Quds force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the response was for a joint Military naval Drill including China, Russia, and Iran occurring in the Gulf of Oman and the northern Indian Ocean. Li Jie, a Chinese naval expert, acknowledged the suspicion of this, saying, “The timing of the joint exercise might be a bit sensitive and some might take it as a show of China’s support for Iran should there be any military conflicts between countries. But it might well be a regular military exchange between the countries if it is held in international waters and without targeting another country.” In addition, it should be noted that this could also be linked to Iran’s September announcement of its Coalition of HOPE plan for maintaining regional freedom of navigation and energy security. Both Russia and China endorsed the plan, but no other power, regional or otherwise, has.

So here is some possible news to make you worry even more with the Coronavirus going on.