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 […]

Drivers and risks of China’s pressure on Vietnam

A concoction of regional and domestic factors is driving China’s increased pressure on Vietnam in the South China Sea, but this strategy entails serious risks for Beijing and, if overplayed, may backfire. While Hanoi’s options to respond are currently limited, they may gain potency as Beijing’s intimidation tactics galvanize support among ASEAN and the international […]

Preeminence or Partnership? The United States in the Indo-Pacific

The release of the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report by the U.S. Department of Defense last month has given further shape to the United States’ vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific. The document underscores the linkages between economics, governance, and security and stresses the importance of allies and partners. However, it also reveals the contradiction between […]

Making a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” Appealing to Southeast Asia

If the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy only serves as a facet of Sino-U.S. competition, the United States will have to overcome China’s advantages in geographic distance, economic wherewithal, and policy continuity. If it serves as a strategy to cultivate agreed-upon norms and principles applied to all parties, big or small, then it may enjoy greater support. Whichever case, seven key issues merit careful consideration while they can have the greatest impact.

Of Claims and Freedoms: Diverging Perspectives on the South China Sea

Power differentials between states affect how they view and respond to the South China Sea disputes. Small powers largely see them as a clash of unilateral territorial and maritime claims over all or part of the semi-enclosed sea, whereas big powers frame them in a more strategic manner – a contest for control over a critical international waterway. Small powers focus on immediate and direct concerns like resource access, whereas big powers stress universal freedoms of navigation and overflight. Lumping claims and freedoms together muddles and complicates the resolution of South China Sea disputes. Disaggregating them, however, may allow for opportunities to tackle part of the dispute separately.