China Responds to Reclamation Reports

On February 26, the semi-official China Military Online reported that Beijing is conducting “large-scale” land reclamation in the disputed Spratly Islands—activities that the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and major news outlets worldwide have been watching closely in recent weeks. In a follow-on article, Reuters called this public acknowledgment of work on six reefs “unusual.” We […]

Before and After: The South China Sea Transformed

Source image: Google Earth This map shows four land features in the Spratly Islands that have undergone significant construction or land reclamation work in the past year. They are: Itu Aba, Gaven Reef, Johnson South Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef. Read more details about the features of these projects and use click and drag the […]

Reclamation in the South China Sea: Legal Loopholes, Practical Impacts

As if they were not complicated enough, the South China Sea disputes took a new turn in 2014 when China began massive land reclamation work in the region. The Philippines released photographs showing an unprecedented transformation of formerly pristine and submerged Johnson South Reef into high and dry white sand swarming with construction activity. Satellite […]

Construction in the South China Sea: A Comparative View

Much has been written and reported on China’s recent land reclamation and mass construction activities in the Paracel and Spratly Islands, which raise alarm about Chinese plans to alter the status quo in the South China Sea. Of course, Chinese and even Taiwanese officials and scholars have put forward complaints that it is unfair to […]

The Legal Challenge of China’s Island Building

Those closely following the situation in the South China Sea have been wringing their hands about the military potential of China’s unprecedented island building work over the last year. This anxiety is understandable, and the expanded patrol and surveillance capacity that Beijing is constructing with facilities, docks, and probably at least one airstrip in the […]

Positive Signs for Crisis Management in the East China Sea

Following the first meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2014, Tokyo and Beijing have resumed official talks to turn the East China Sea into a zone of “peace, cooperation, and friendship.” On January 12, representative from each country’s defense ministry, navy, and air force met in Tokyo […]

In Confidence: Will We Know if US-China CBMs Are Working?

In November 2014, the United States and China concluded two major confidence-building measures (CBMs), which they announced at a bilateral summit. The CBMs include an agreement that each side will notify the other of major military activities, and a code of conduct for safe maritime and air encounters. Where the code of conduct is concerned, […]

What’s in a CBM?: Watching for Direct and Indirect Measures of Confidence

It’s hard to imagine that the risk of war in Asia could hinge on something as pedestrian and mundane-sounding as “confidence-building measures” or CBMs. Yet this obscure piece of security terminology, originating during the Cold War, is now front and center in discussions of the future of U.S.-China strategic relations. Policymakers and military leaders in […]

A New Vision for U.S.-India Cooperation in Asia

President Barack Obama’s visit to India on January 25-27, 2015 renewed India’s place as a centerpiece of the “pivot to Asia.” Moving ahead with long-pending strategic deals on civilian nuclear trade and defense co-development, along with the renewal of our expiring New Framework for the U.S. India Defense Relationship, underscores the new cooperative spirit with […]