The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660-1783 by Alfred Thayer Mahan, 1890 (Little, Brown and Company), Boston, United States, detailed the role sea power and its needed components played in facilitating national determination in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Mahan's manual on sea power influenced navies up to, and after World War I, when nations sought to widen and to maintain spheres of dominance. A large navy was key to a strong power.
However, today, under the current state of international affairs ranging from the East and South China Seas and beyond, sea power partnered with air power, are both needed to maintain international law of the seas. Sea power, though vitally crucial, is not sufficient alone in this period of modernizing armies, to exercise international customs and norms. Thus, air power must be tempered with the historical importance of sea power to bring normalcy especially on the South China Sea.
Freedom of navigation must be maintained on the South China Sea in spite of unilateral Chinese claims to 90 percent of the sea over claims from smaller neighbors. Admiral Scott Swift, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet has reaffirmed that the US is "as committed as ever" to protect freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific region.
As reported by Reuters earlier today, Admiral Swift, speaking at a maritime conference in Sydney, Australia, observed: "It's my sense that some nations view freedom of the seas as up for grabs, as something that can be taken down and redefined by domestic law or by reinterpreting international law." He added: "Some nations continue to impose superfluous warnings and restrictions on freedom of the seas in their exclusive economic zones and claim territorial water rights that are inconsistent with (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.) Thus trend is particularly egregious in contested waters," Reuters reported.
But the US "...will continue to exercise freedom of the seas for all nations, because we know from painful past experience, to shirk this responsibility and obligation, puts much more at risk than any one nation's maritime interest," Admiral Swift declared.
China has been carrying out reclamation projects, air strip construction and island building on disputed isles on the South China Sea over the objections of US ally, the Philippines.
With China's windfall of cash and a modernizing army, the US must partner sea power with air power in order to ensure freedom of movement on the South China Sea even as China continues its actions to expand into the resource rich waters.