Strategic Catch Up: Biden’s Team Is Stepping Up in Southeast Asia

Vice-President Kamala Harris’s maiden visit to Southeast Asia this month couldn’t have come at a more critical juncture. The Biden administration’s “hard and messy” exit from Afghanistan has not only sapped the prestige of American power, at least for the moment, but also enabled rivals and their proxies to gloatingly question the United States’ commitment […]

Codifying Waters and Reshaping Orders: China’s Strategy for Dominating the South China Sea

While states remain focused on combating Covid-19, security challenges to the existing international order have not vanished. On September 1, China’s Maritime Traffic Safety Law (MTSL) came into force, requiring all foreign vessels entering Chinese territorial waters to notify maritime authorities, carry required permits, and submit to Chinese command and supervision. This comes after China’s […]

Britain’s Return to the Indo-Pacific

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s foreword to the Integrated Review of Global Britain’s Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy spoke of HMS Queen Elizabeth, one of the two largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, leading a British and allied task group on the United Kingdom’s most ambitious global deployment for over two decades, visiting […]

The Visiting Forces Agreement and the Future of U.S.-Philippine Relations

President Joseph Biden’s victory in last year’s elections was warmly welcomed across Southeast Asia, a vital region at the heart of a brewing new Cold War. Earlier this year, the annual ISEAS Yusof-Ishak Institute survey showed that almost two-thirds of Southeast Asian respondents expressed their preference for the United States over China, a jump in […]

The Quad Has Met: Now It Needs to Get to Work for Maritime Asia

Last month, the top leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States assembled for the first leader-level summit of the so-called “Quad.”  This dialogue partnership dates to 2007 and is built on a foundation laid during the cooperative response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. After wallowing in diplomatic doldrums, the recurring ministerial-level events […]

The Philippines and China Spar Anew

Whitstun Reef, named Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines after the late composer of the Philippine national anthem, is becoming a new flashpoint in the South China Sea. The massing of about 220 Chinese fishing vessels in the reef in the past several weeks raises worries about China’s growing activities in the contested sea. The […]

Why Biden Should Pursue “Minilateralism” with ASEAN

Since taking office, Joseph Biden’s administration has overseen a renaissance in American commitment to multilateral diplomacy. In its first month in office, the new American leadership has embarked on a global charm offensive to restore frayed international ties following four years of Trumpian unilateralism and protectionism. Within a single week, President Biden held crucial talks […]

Why Quad 2.0 Matters

The bellicose tone emanating from Beijing in the last couple years has led to a pooling of resources by some other countries in the region, notably India, Japan, the United States, and Australia.  This can be seen in the revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, in November 2017. This new version of the […]

South China Sea: A Biden-Duterte Reset

If there is a single phrase that best captures President-elect Joseph Biden’s still-nebulous foreign policy doctrine, it is this: “America is back”. In one of his most revealing interviews since the November elections, the incoming U.S. president made it clear that under his administration, “America’s going to reassert its role in the world and be […]

Malaysia in the South China Sea: A Growing Mismatch Between Threat and Capabilities

The South China Sea is an important maritime area for Malaysia. Besides being connected to the world’s major east-west trade routes, Malaysia is one of the claimant states of the Spratly Islands. The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), however, is facing a growing mismatch between its naval capabilities and its interests in addressing maritime challenges in […]

The Quad’s Four Quandaries

The first standalone ministerial meeting of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), hosted by Tokyo early this month, raised expectations about the role the four-member group will play in the fast-changing Indo-Pacific strategic landscape. India’s invitation for Australia to join the 2020 Malabar exercises next month transformed what began as U.S.-India maritime drills in 1992 into […]

The Challenges Facing Philippines–China Joint Development in the South China Sea

Territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea have been a major irritant in Philippines–China relations. When Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016, a policy decision to underscore pragmatism in relations with China and opt for a moderated approach to dispute settlement in the South China Sea became clear. In November 2018, China and […]

Washington Tries Pulling Economic Levers in the South China Sea

This week, the U.S. government for the first time imposed economic penalties on Chinese businesses for their behavior in the South China Sea. The Commerce Department placed 24 Chinese companies on the Entity List. The list restricts exports of certain goods to companies and individuals that threaten U.S. national security or foreign policy priorities. According […]

Time to Forge India-Vietnam Defense Ties

China’s maritime encroachments in the South China Sea continue unabated amid Covid-19. China’s infringement upon the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of littoral states such as Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as well as its conducting of naval drills in disputed waters in July have reflected its intransigence in adhering to the United Nations Convention on the […]

Effort to Discredit U.S. Freedom of Navigation Report Falls Short

The China-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative recently published a commentary, which criticized the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Freedom of Navigation (FON) Report for 2019.  This commentary was authored by Ching Chang, a research fellow at the Society for Strategic Studies in Taipei. It attempts to discredit the DOD FON Report, alleging […]