In May 2013, China increased its presence near a Philippine outpost in the South China Sea. Chinese coast guard and other vessels were spotted only a few miles from Second Thomas Shoal. Since 1999, Philippine marines have occupied a dilapidated warship—the BRP Sierra Madre—atop this coral atoll in the disputed Spratly Islands. Manila’s foreign affairs department protested the onset of continuous Chinese patrols, calling them “provocative and illegal.” Other leaders acknowledged that Beijing could not be lawfully denied freedom of navigation around the reef, but still feared for the safety of Manila’s supply lines to its dilapidated garrison.
Scarborough Shoal is widely seen as the most palpable erosion of stability in the South China Sea since 2012. Three conclusions about the standoff, especially its initial stages, highlight opportunities to better manage disputes in the years ahead.
On its face, having coast guards patrol large bodies of disputed territory might be cause for optimism. But the way coast guards are employed in the South China Sea as blunt instruments to assert state power gives more cause for concern than optimism.
Country-level pragmatic calculations may contribute to more peaceful relations among claimant states, but risk driving ASEAN into total irrelevance as China shapes the regional agenda on its own terms.
Regular reporting on China’s island reclamations, or terriclaims, and related activities in the South China Sea appear to have missed one vital piece of analysis: how is China powering its new installations?
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.
Following his public discussion about the very modern origin of China’s claims in the South China Sea, Bill Hayton sits down with AMTI Director Greg Poling for a deeper dive on how the topic continues to complicate the dispute. He summarizes how China’s claims emerged in the early 20th century, outlines their subsequent expansion, and […]
On September 22, AMTI and the CSIS Southeast Asia Program hosted Bill Hayton, associate fellow at Chatham House, for a discussion of the muddled origins of China’s claims to the South China Sea in the early twentieth century. He showed evidence that China’s claim to islands first emerged in 1909 and was further developed after […]
Except for the work of a few analysts like Carlyle Thayer, Daniel Schaeffer, and Leszek Buszynski, the role of bathymetry and submarine warfare in the Spratly Islands dispute has been largely ignored. To better understand this aspect of the dispute, it is necessary to dispel the myth of the Spratlys as an area of shallow […]
In this joint CogitAsia and AMTI episode we tackle the topic of overfishing in the South China Sea. Ahead of the 2016 Our Ocean summit in Washington, Rachael Bale, a reporter with National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit covering wildlife crime, joins to share her insights into the collapsing fishstocks in the South China Sea. Rachael […]
The Philippines’ newly minted president couldn’t have asked for a more high-profile diplomatic debut when he attended this week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, which saw the participation of the leaders from across the Asia Pacific, including the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and India, along with the secretary-general of the United Nations. […]
The July 12 judgement of the tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration regarding Manila’s case against Beijing’s South China Sea claims has reshaped the geostrategic landscape in Southeast Asia. But surprisingly, Vietnam has only issued a brief statement on the verdict, with Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Le Hai Binh saying that “Vietnam welcomes […]
Consistent with his campaign promise, the Philippines’ new president Rodrigo Duterte has stepped up efforts to mend ties with China, despite the latter’s flagrant rejection of the Philippines’ recent law-fare victory at The Hague. Duterte has deputized no less than former president Fidel Ramos, who also dealt with Chinese maritime assertiveness in the mid-1990s, to […]
Of all the “strategic” challenges confronting the Asia-Pacific region, none is as underrated as the destruction of the marine ecosystem. The South China Sea’s status as a critical waterway draws attention away from the fact that littoral Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most diverse global marine bio-systems, hosting 76 percent of the world’s […]
When the tribunal deciding the South China Sea arbitration case brought by the Philippines against China issued its award on July 12, the international media seemed impressed by the landslide decision in favor of the Philippines on almost all of its claims. Many reported that the ruling was a rebuke of China’s sovereignty claims, but […]
Duterte amends previous geopolitical agenda to maintain U.S.-Philippines security and to establish economic cooperation with China.
Fishing disputes between Taiwan and Japan facilitate preventative diplomacy
International pressure will determine the effectiveness of the Hague’s ruling
Taiwan faces pressure to define the legal character of the U-shaped line, the predecessor of the nine dash line.
The United States needs to demonstrate the will to challenge China and a specific plan to counteract Chinese measures.