Dive deep on the latest maritime issues in AMTI's Features, an interactive and media-rich repository of information.

A New Chinese Runway in the Paracels? Probably Not

China has in the last month or so launched a new construction project on Triton Island in the Paracels. Triton is the southwestern-most of the Paracels and therefore the closest to Vietnam, which makes the waters and airspace around it particularly tense. For instance, Triton, and competing claims from it, played an important role in […]

Arbitration Support Tracker

Update 09/14/2023: In light of the joint statement issued by the United States, Japan, and South Korea on August 18, 2023, South Korea has been moved from the “Positively Acknowledging Ruling” category to “Supporting Ruling” category. Seven years have passed since the July 2016 South China Sea arbitral ruling was issued. Through 2022, most countries’ […]

Buoy Battle in the Spratly Islands

In May, the Philippines and China took turns installing buoys in the disputed Spratly Islands. The deployment of buoys and other sovereignty markers in the South China Sea has a long history. But amid a flurry of new activity by the Philippines, including publicized patrols and surveillance missions, it is noteworthy that the buoy deployment […]

Strategic Upgrades in the Pacific

Since AMTI’s last 2019 feature on Chinese strategic inroads in the Pacific Islands, the region has seen marked political shifts as well as continued strategic attention from China and the resident powers of Australia, France, New Zealand, and the United States. While Beijing has yet to realize a basing agreement in the Pacific Islands, it […]

Perilous Prospects: Tensions Flare at Malaysian, Vietnamese Oil and Gas Fields

China Coast Guard patrols near oil and gas projects in the South China Sea have triggered responses from Vietnamese law enforcement and the Malaysian navy in two separate incidents over the last month. Contested Patrols at Nam Con Son and Vanguard Bank Chinese and Vietnamese law enforcement vessels had an extremely close encounter on March […]

(Almost) Everyone is Drilling Inside the Nine-Dash Line

China’s military, law enforcement, and militia engaged in regular standoffs between 2018 and 2021 with Southeast Asian neighbors over oil and gas exploration inside Beijing’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea. By contrast, 2022 was comparatively quiet when it came to tensions over hydrocarbons, aside from one encounter involving the Philippines. But as […]

Flooding the Zone: China Coast Guard Patrols in 2022

China’s coast guard presence in the South China Sea is more robust than ever. An analysis of automatic identification system (AIS) data from commercial provider MarineTraffic shows that the China Coast Guard (CCG) maintained near-daily patrols at key features across the South China Sea in 2022. Together with the ubiquitous presence of its maritime militia, […]

Vietnam’s Major Spratly Expansion

Vietnam has accelerated and expanded dredging and landfill work at several of its outposts in the Spratly Islands in the second half of 2022, creating roughly 420 acres of new land this year and bringing its total in the last ten years to 540 acres. The work includes expanded landfill work at four features identified […]

Evolving Threats to Southeast Asia’s Maritime Security

Southeast Asia’s maritime security environment is growing more complex. States are improving their capacity, cooperation is at an all-time high, and a broadening set of stakeholders are contributing to the provision of maritime security. These changes have helped roll back some threats, while others seem to have become more dangerous. New threats are emerging while […]

The Ebb and Flow of Beijing’s South China Sea Militia

Analysis of satellite imagery from the past year shows that hundreds of Chinese militia vessels continue to operate in the Spratly Islands on a daily basis. The data confirms the massive scale of militia force in the Spratlys. It also shows a marked consistency in their movement and behavior patterns despite outcries from other claimants: […]

Construction at Cambodia’s Ream Picks Up Pace

Chinese-funded construction continues to transform Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base at a rapid pace, with major land clearing, a new pier, and several new structures completed in the last three months. Twenty-eight acres of land, over 15 percent of Ream’s total land area, have been cleared in the center of the base since July. Construction is […]

China Installs A New Hydrocarbon Platform in the East China Sea

China has installed a new production platform near the median line with Japan in the East China Sea. The platform is the first new permanent platform to be installed in the area since 2015, and its construction has drawn protest from Tokyo, which believes the two countries should share the area’s hydrocarbons under international law. […]

Update: China Blocks Another Philippine Resupply Mission

Automatic Identification System (AIS) data suggests that a Philippine government vessel was again denied access to Second Thomas Shoal by the China Coast Guard (CCG) in late June, underscoring the vulnerability of the grounded BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as a Philippine outpost on the reef. The Philippines’ M/V DA BFAR, a 60-meter research vessel […]

Update: Dredged Pier Constructed at Ream

Construction at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base has accelerated in recent months, especially on the northern end of the facility which is suspected to be set aside for China’s use. A slew of new buildings have gone up alongside major land clearing and, in the latest development, the beginnings of a new pier. In mid-June, what […]

More Island Upgrades Across the South China Sea

Vietnam’s recent dredging efforts have garnered attention from both AMTI and the international press.  But other occupants in the South China Sea have also continued to modestly upgrade their facilities in recent years. As part of a comprehensive update to our Island Tracker, AMTI has surveyed occupied features across the Spratly and Paracel Islands and […]

Delhi Continues Strategic Investment in the Indian Ocean

In the last decade, India has made a concerted effort to enhance its maritime posture in the Indian Ocean. When AMTI last surveyed Indian maritime investments in 2019, many projects were ongoing. While not every planned upgrade has gone through in the years since, India has more than made up for individual setbacks by broadening […]

Castles Made of Sand: Vietnam’s Spratly Upgrades

Updated July 8, 2022 In the last six months, Vietnam has engaged in new dredging and landfill at three of its occupied features in the Spratly Islands. And over the past year, it has continued minor upgrades and construction of new buildings on several bases. Amid these improvements, Vietnam has also had to repair significant […]

Conceptualization of “Maritime Security” in Southeast Asia: Convergence and Divergence

“Maritime Security” has emerged as a central concept in Southeast Asia’s policy lexicon. However, as is the case in much of the world, the term’s precise meaning is not consistently clear. Which challenges and state activities should be categorized as maritime security and which should be considered elements of another domain is generally ambiguous. This […]

What Lies Beneath: Chinese Surveys in the South China Sea

Survey vessels have become important actors in China’s efforts to assert its maritime claims in the South China Sea. Since 2019, China has deployed survey ships four times in direct response to Southeast Asian oil and gas activity as part of widely reported standoffs. But China also conducts a significant number of surveys in the […]

Pulling Back the Curtain on China’s Maritime Militia

Over the past year, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and the Center for Advanced Defense Studies conducted a study of China’s maritime militia using remote sensing data and open-source Chinese language research. The resulting report, Pulling Back the Curtain on China’s Maritime Militia, features the most comprehensive study to-date of the structure, subsidies, and ownership […]

Nervous Energy: China Targets New Indonesian, Malaysian Drilling

Over the last four months, Chinese vessels have been contesting Indonesian and Malaysian oil and gas activity in the South China Sea in the latest instance of what is now an established pattern. Chinese law enforcement has maintained a continuous presence at the site of new Indonesian drilling north of the Natuna Islands since early […]

There and Back Again: Chinese Militia at Iroquois Reef and Union Banks

On September 30, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. instructed the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to file three new protests with China over recent actions in the South China Sea, including the “continued presence of Chinese fishing vessels in [the] vicinity of Iroquois Reef.” An examination of satellite imagery reveals that Chinese militia vessels […]

Update: China Continues to Transform Ream Naval Base

Construction continues at Ream Naval Base amid concerns that the new facilities are being built to facilitate a Chinese military presence in Cambodia. Over the course of August and September, three new buildings have gone up and a new road has been cleared, among other changes. Satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies and Planet Labs shows […]

Update: Who’s Taking Sides on China’s Maritime Claims?

The table within this feature has been updated to include New Zealand, who rejected the majority of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea in its own note verbale to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) on August 3, 2021. An additional update was made to reflect Germany’s July […]

Contest at Kasawari: Another Malaysian Gas Project Faces Pressure

Since early June, China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels have been contesting new Malaysian oil and gas development off the coast of Sarawak. The activity coincides with a patrol by Chinese military planes near Malaysia, which prompted scrambles by Malaysian aircraft and recriminations from Kuala Lumpur.  This is at least the third time since last spring […]

Out in Force: Philippine South China Sea Patrols Are Way Up

On March 20, the Philippines announced that it had monitored over 220 Chinese militia boats at Whitsun Reef in a patrol earlier that month. In the two and a half months since, the Philippines has increased the level of its law enforcement and military patrols in the South China Sea beyond anything seen in recent […]

Caught on Camera: Two Dozen Militia Boats at Whitsun Reef Identified

Last month, the National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea, an interagency body housed within the Presidential Office in Manila, reported that more than 200 Chinese militia vessels were anchored at Whitsun Reef. The task force released photos of some of those vessels, collected during a patrol by the Philippine Coast Guard on March […]

Force Majeure: China’s Coast Guard Law in Context

China’s new Coast Guard Law has drawn concern and criticism from the United States, Japan, the Philippines, and other regional governments, as well as academics. Passed by the National People’s Congress on January 22, the law contains strong language regarding the China Coast Guard’s (CCG) authority to prevent infringement of China’s sovereignty and maritime rights. […]

Vietnam Shores Up Its Spratly Defenses

Vietnam continues to make modest improvements to its facilities in the Spratly Islands. In cooperation with Simularity, AMTI has reviewed satellite imagery from the last two years to catalog upgrades to Vietnam’s island outposts since the initiative last surveyed them. This exercise underscores Hanoi’s continuing focus on making its bases more resilient to invasion or […]

How Covid-19 Affected U.S.-China Military Signaling

Since the global outbreak of Covid-19, the U.S. and Chinese governments have accused each other of using the pandemic as cover to increase military operations in the Indo-Pacific. The United States, for example, has pointed to China’s deployment of coastguard forces to challenge the oil and gas activities of other claimants in the South China […]