A Tumultuous 2016 in the South China Sea

This promises to be a landmark year for the claimant countries and other interested parties in the South China Sea disputes. Developments that have been underway for several years, especially China’s island-building campaign in the Spratlys and Manila’s arbitration case against Beijing, will come to fruition. These and other developments will draw outside players, including […]

EDCA Refocus: Eyes on the AFP’s Modernization Program

On January 12, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States is an executive agreement that does not require Senate approval. With the ruling in hand, the Philippines and the United States governments can begin in earnest to implement the 2014 deal, which mainly […]

Philippine Supreme Court Approves EDCA: Unlocking the Door for the Return of U.S. Strategic Footprint in Southeast Asia

On January 12 the Philippine Supreme Court came out with a courageous decision reaffirming the constitutionality of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States. In a 10 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the EDCA, paving way for the return of forward-deployed U.S. forces to select Philippine […]

Time is of the Essence in South China Sea Arbitration Case

The timing of the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the Philippines’ case against China’s nine-dash-line claims has critical geopolitical implications for Asia’s security. Specifically, a decision delivered well before the Philippine presidential election this May would allow the administration of President Benigno Aquino to respond strategically and with continuity, […]

Philippines and Japan Strengthen a Twenty-First Century Security Partnership

During a bilateral meeting at the November 18-19 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in Manila, Philippine president Benigno Aquino and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe agreed in principle to negotiate the transfer of defense equipment and technology from the Japan Self-Defense Forces to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). If completed, this accord would […]

Possible Consequences of the Philippines’ South China Sea Arbitration Case

The Philippines’ arbitration case against China has created significant new dynamics in the South China Sea disputes. With the prospect of a ruling from the tribunal in the coming months, it is time to ponder the case’s possible consequences. The tribunal will likely reach a decision on at least the seven submissions by the Philippines […]

An Interview with Paul Reichler, Lead Counsel for the Philippines in its Case against China

Paul Reicher, partner at Foley Hoag and lead counsel for Manila in its arbitration case against Beijing’s South China Sea claims, sits down with AMTI director Gregory Poling to discuss why Manila is pursuing arbitration, the proceedings to-date, and what comes next. You can listen to the entire interview or skip to individual sections by […]

Implications of the Philippines v. China Award on Jurisdiction

The Philippines scored a procedural victory on October 29, successfully dodging the jurisdiction and admissibility objections posed by China’s position paper released last December regarding Manila’s case against Beijing’s South China Sea claims. In a 151-page decision, a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague affirmed the primacy of the United Nations […]

Philippines’ Lopsided South China Sea Policy

More than any country in the region, the Philippines has sought to protect its territorial integrity through “lawfare” (legal warfare), taking China to the court over maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Perturbed by China’s growing assertiveness across disputed waters, evident in its expanded para-military patrols, massive reclamation activities, and regular military drills in […]

Why the Philippines’ Case Should Pass the Jurisdiction and Admissibility Tests

The Philippines has been widely applauded for bringing the first ever arbitration case relating to the South China Sea disputes before an UNCLOS Arbitration Tribunal, but it still needs to clear the three hurdles of jurisdiction, admissibility and merit. In other words, Manila needs to prove that its case falls within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, that […]

The Philippines between Scylla and Charybdis at The Hague

The Annex VII arbitral tribunal heard oral arguments from the Philippines last week on the issues of jurisdiction and admissibility of claims in the case it launched against China. Despite high hopes placed on Manila’s cause, these issues remain the most formidable legal obstacles to be surmounted. While the Philippine Memorial has not been made […]

The Battle of The Hague: Philippines v. China in the South China Sea

The Philippines’ lawfare (legal warfare) against China has reached a critical juncture. More than two years after initiating compulsory arbitration against China, the Southeast Asian country faces the crucial task of proving that the Arbitral Tribunal, formed under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has the mandate […]

What Makes an Island? Land Reclamation and the South China Sea Arbitration

We have all heard about land reclamation by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the South China Sea, particularly the southeastern region known as the Spratly Group. But much less is being said about what the Permanent Court of Arbitration just finished considering for the past week: are artificial islands really islands? According to […]

Taiwan’s Response to the Philippines-PRC South China Sea Arbitration

On December 8, 2014, the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands deposited with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), the Registry for the South China Sea arbitral proceedings, a Note Verbale. The PCA was asked to forward the Position Paper of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Matters of Jurisdiction in the […]

The Post-Hearing Reality in the South China Sea Arbitration Case

The Hague hearing on jurisdiction and admissibility of the South China Sea arbitration case has come to an end on July 13 after a weeklong process without China’s participation. The hearing has become a heated headline for medias, governments, and scholars for the past week. Questions include whether the Arbitral Tribunal will issue a decision […]

Sophistry and Bad Messaging in the South China Sea

Chinese authorities, as well as sympathetic writers, have in recent months sought to deflect criticism of China’s island-building campaign in the Spratlys by insisting that Beijing is merely copying what other claimants have done for years. According to this narrative, every claimant is as guilty as Beijing of altering the status of features in the […]

Vietnam and the Philippines: Spoke-to-Spoke Alliances in the South China Sea

As far as China’s designs in the South China Sea are concerned, there is little sign of compromise on the horizon.  Not only has China openly declared its commitment to “active defense” of its interests in adjacent waters, and also dangled the option of imposing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area, but […]

China May Lose Friends in Southeast Asia

Several Southeast Asian countries have expressed concern over Beijing’s belligerent behavior and aggressive posturing in the South China Sea. A litany of complaints of harassment of innocent fishermen by Chinese Coast Guard vessels has been reported by Vietnam and the Philippines, who are visibly angry with China. These incidents have led to stand-offs between maritime […]

President Aquino’s Visit to Tokyo Boosts Philippine-Japan Partnership in Maritime Security

President Benigo Aquino III’s first state visit to Japan reflected the increasing tempo of security cooperation between these two U.S. allies that are facing a common security challenge in their maritime domains—China’s maritime expansion. President Aquino met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss how they can strengthen their countries’ strategic partnership in the face of […]

U.S.-Philippines Balikatan Exercise in the Face of Chinese Island Building

The Philippines and the United States will hold a large-scale 10-day military exercise known as Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) from April 20-30. This takes place in the face of China’s island-building activities in the South China Sea.  For Balikatan 2015, 11,740 American, Filipino, and Australian troops will conduct joint training exercises and maneuvers in three separate locations […]

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 […]

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 […]