A critical and early Chinese test of U.S. resolve is likely to come in the South China Sea, where Washington has struggled to respond effectively to assertive Chinese behavior.
Those concerned with East Asian security need to think about what the South China Sea will look like five years down the road, and consider the politico-military-economic consequences of Chinese domination of the South China Sea.
It is understandable that some observers, especially in Asia, want to believe that Beijing has turned over a new leaf. But it is much more likely that tensions will return with a vengeance in 2017.
Security analysts have questioned whether U.S.-Philippine defense cooperation can survive six years of a Philippine president seemingly driven by anti-Western ideology. Those fears should be somewhat allayed, as Duterte has walked back some of his earlier pronouncements and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has declared that the Philippine-U.S. security alliance will not be abrogated and that the EDCA will stay in place.
The election is barely over, but the pressure will soon be on the new administration and its national security team to demonstrate U.S. resolve to support international rules and norms in the South China Sea.
Developments in the international affairs of Southeast Asia are generating considerable uncertainty and doubt among regional players, including Vietnam. Seeking a delicate balance between great powers, and among other regional states, is a necessity for Hanoi to keep Vietnam’s national interests and relationships with other countries undamaged.
The July 12 arbitral tribunal ruling was the first significant international law decision on maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Some commentators suggest that the tribunal’s ruling could be a game changer for managing or resolving maritime disputes in the highly-disputed waterway.
With Russia deep in the trenches of global power competition, the contours of its long-term interests in the South China Sea are perhaps starting to take shape.
Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court of the Philippines sits down with AMTI director Gregory Poling to discuss constitutional requirements for any joint fisheries or oil and gas deal in the South China Sea, as well as the limits of President Rodrigo Duterte’s power to change treaty commitments.
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.