Five years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that eminent historians and political scientists would draw analogies between territorial issues in the East and South China Seas, and the Balkans on the eve of the First World War. Yet in the very recent past, maritime claims, resource competition, and contentious international arbitration in the Indo-Pacific region have seized the attention of policymakers, pundits, and the public at large. Maritime Asia also has great promise, however: It holds over half of the world’s population; Its waterways carry 50 percent of global commercial shipping; Its seas contain vast proven and probable oil and gas reserves; The region grows more economically interdependent by the year. Increasing interstate competition, however, raises the risk that this dynamic potential could turn to peril if an isolated incident at sea escalates into a global crisis.
Growing maritime tensions are especially vexing because they have been mounting in an environment of opacity. Littoral geography makes it difficult to monitor events at sea in real time. While most major geopolitical developments are audited by the 24 hour news cycle and pervasive social media, it is difficult to know when open-ocean actors are promoting free navigation or resorting to coercion. Moreover, because so many states have deep national interests in Indo-Pacific waterways, it can be difficult to adjudicate amongst available narratives. There has previously been no single, reliable authority for information on maritime security developments in Asia.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative seeks to change this. We are an interactive, regularly-updated source for information, analysis, and policy exchange on maritime security issues in the Indo-Pacific region. AMTI takes a web magazine format, and features completely new content every two weeks—and more often that that when news is breaking. The AMTI team tracks news outlets and research resources around the globe to give you the latest and most important information updates using interactive maps. We also bring you insightful analysis by top maritime security experts in the United States and in Asia. Additionally, the website hosts several research resources that rely on cutting-edge technology to help you navigate this important policy space. These include our 175 year-long maritime history Timeline, our Atlas of regional maps, and our primary source Documents Library. And if you believe that there are sources that we have overlooked, we encourage you to contribute more documents to this new and growing project.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative is founded on the belief that transparency will help to encourage stability—that if we work from the same set of facts, we may find opportunities for dialogue, confidence-building, and cooperation. We hope that this new platform for information and exchange will help bring some clarity to the murky waters of maritime Asia. The stakes couldn’t be higher.