Deciphering Vietnam’s Evolving Military Doctrine in the South China Sea

As China continues to expand its military presence in disputed areas of the South China Sea, Vietnam has sought to balance Beijing’s activities through a combination of deft defense diplomacy and sensible military modernization. On the latter point, analysts have spilled much ink in recent years assessing the Vietnam People’s Army’s (VPA) procurement or indigenous development of specific weapon systems. Yet comparatively little has been written on the thought process behind acquisition of these new capabilities, and whether Vietnam has a military doctrine or concept of operations in place to effectively guide their employment in future South China Sea conflicts.

Islands as Game Changers in the Indian Ocean

Indian president Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Madagascar in March was a sign of the growing importance of strategic islands in the Indian Ocean region. The visit—the first ever by an Indian head of state—underlines both Madagascar’s strategic location in the southwest Indian Ocean and Delhi’s historical disregard toward island nations, a misstep that the foreign office has begun correcting only recently.

The Timor Sea Boundary Agreement: An Incomplete Victory

On March 6, Australia and Timor-Leste signed a landmark treaty delimiting their maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea. Much of the media has presented the agreement as resolving the long-running disputes between Australia and Timor-Leste over maritime boundaries and resources. This is inaccurate, largely because the most difficult issue—the development of Greater Sunrise—remains ongoing.

China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative: Economic Drivers and Challenges

China’s leaders have mapped out an ambitious plan, the Maritime Silk Road Initiative, to establish three “blue economic passages” that will connect Beijing with economic hubs around the world. It is the maritime dimension of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, which could include $1–4 trillion in new roads, railways, ports, and other infrastructure.

Sustaining the Momentum: Duterte and the Philippines-Japan Strategic Partnership

In light of the upward trajectory of the relationship between Manila and Tokyo, one might ask what a strategic partnership is, and what diplomatic advantages it confers. How does the Philippines-Japan strategic partnership figure in Duterte’s quest for an independent foreign policy? And how does the strategic partnership meet the shared interests of Manila and Tokyo?