The United States (US) has again questioned the Russian sovereignty over The Peter the Great Gulf in Russia’s Far East. The move comes after the Russian Defense Ministry stated that the Russian Navy Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Vinogradov stopped the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) from violating the Russian border in the Peter the Great Gulf on 24 November. The Russian Navy accused the US Navy ship of “passing the maritime border by two kilometres”.
The US 7th Fleet released its own version of the incident stating that “USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay in the Sea of Japan. This freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging Russia’s excessive maritime claims.” The release also said that USS John S. McCain was not “expelled” from any nation’s territory.
As per US Navy release, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had declared a system of straight baselines along its coasts, including a straight baseline enclosing Peter the Great Bay as ‘claimed internal waters’ in 1984. “This 106-nautical mile (nm) closing line is inconsistent with the rules of international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention to enclose the waters of a bay. By drawing this closing line, the U.S.S.R. attempted to claim more internal waters – and territorial sea farther from shore – than it is entitled to claim under international law. Russia has continued the U.S.S.R. claim. By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are not Russia’s territorial sea and that the United States does not acquiesce in Russia’s claim that Peter the Great is a “historic bay” under international law,” said the release.
This is the second recorded instance of the US Navy challenging the Russian sovereignty over the Peter the Great Gulf which the US terms as ‘excessive maritime claims’. On December 2018, USS McCampbell (DDG-85) went past the Peter the Great Bay off Russia’s Primorye Region and the base of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. The US had conducted the first FONOP in the area since 1987. The Russian Defence Ministry had said that USS Campbell did not come closer than 100 kilometres to Russia’s territorial waters.