ASEAN

Anatomy of the Code of Conduct Framework for the South China Sea

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In Manila on August 6, 2017, the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China endorsed a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea (CoC). The framework had earlier been approved by senior officials from ASEAN and China at a meeting in Guiyang, China, on May 19. Statements by the two sides were broadly welcoming of the framework. In their joint communiqué—which was delayed for nearly 24 hours due to differences between some member states on how the South China Sea dispute should be characterized—the ASEAN foreign ministers said they were “encouraged”… Read More »Anatomy of the Code of Conduct Framework for the South China Sea

Japan-Malaysia Cooperation in the New Security Landscape of the Indo-Pacific

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The year 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Japan. Relations between the two countries have remained robust since Malaysia’s adoption of its “Look East policy” in the 1980s, which has sent thousands of Malaysian students to receive education and training in Japan. In addition, Japan has contributed to safety of navigation initiatives in the Strait of Malacca since the early 1970s and participated in regional and international efforts to combat piracy and armed robberies at sea. Japan has also been keen on promoting cooperation in other areas such as maritime security, peacekeeping,… Read More »Japan-Malaysia Cooperation in the New Security Landscape of the Indo-Pacific

ASEAN Initiatives Face Strong Headwinds

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  At a joint press conference with U.S. secretary of state John Kerry in Washington, D.C., in February, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi assured his audience that, compared with other parts of the world, the South China Sea was stable. To be sure, the Spratly Islands are not Syria. The geopolitical stakes, however, are arguably much higher than in the Middle East, and since the beginning of 2016, events have suggested that the South China Sea is becoming more and more tumultuous by the week. In March, for instance, the Philippines alleged that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and… Read More »ASEAN Initiatives Face Strong Headwinds

Japanese Maritime Assistance: A Status Quo Plus

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The prospect of a “normal” Japan is welcomed by some and approached cautiously by others; the related debate over whether Japan is undergoing defense policy revolution or evolution is well-developed among regional specialists. Neither interpretation seems entirely faithful to empirical evidence. If we take Japan’s maritime cooperation with Southeast Asia as emblematic of Tokyo’s expanding role in regional security, we can argue that Tokyo is ushering in important but incremental changes to defense policy that are consistently anchored to established institutional patterns. Firmly biased toward tightly civilian-controlled, nonmilitarized approaches to security, these patterns place limits on future defense options that… Read More »Japanese Maritime Assistance: A Status Quo Plus

Whither the Honest Broker? Indonesia and the South China Sea

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The incursion on March 19–20, 2016, by two armed China Coast Guard ships into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 4.34 kilometers off the Natuna Islands, sparked tensions on a new front in the South China Sea. The incident has again raised the question of where Indonesia stands on the disputes—both as a potential party and as a leader within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The incident began when a patrol boat from the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (KKP) seized a 300-metric-ton Chinese fishing boat, the Kway Fey 10078, and arrested its eight crew members for… Read More »Whither the Honest Broker? Indonesia and the South China Sea

Perspectives on the South China Sea Dispute in 2018

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In 2017, China strengthened its position in the South China Sea dispute in at least five ways. First, it expanded its construction activities on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands and on North, Tree, and Triton Islands in the Paracel Islands. Since 2014, China has added a total of 290,000 square meters, or 72 acres, of new landmass. The expansion of artificial islands has reinforced its overall ability to control the South China Sea—for example, by allowing for the deployment of fighter jets in the region. For this reason, Xi Jinping praised this achievement as a… Read More »Perspectives on the South China Sea Dispute in 2018

ASEAN and the Risks of Business as Usual

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Growing tensions over competing South China Sea claims, coupled with China’s increasing economic influence, are aggravating long-standing cleavages within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Intra-ASEAN differences are evident in the clear difficulty the grouping’s members have faced when trying to devise joint positions regarding the South China Sea, including during major meetings at Yunnan and Vientiane in June and July 2016. Unless its members reconfigure the way ASEAN operates, the organization risks irrelevance. Such reforms may include everything from bolstering the organization’s capacity for internal coordination to reworking decision-making processes or accepting the formation of more, and even… Read More »ASEAN and the Risks of Business as Usual

The Award Decision in the Philippines-China Arbitration Case: A Perspective from Malaysia

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In the last decade, many countries in Southeast Asia have formulated new policies in response to the changing strategic environment shaped by the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific, including in the South China Sea. In particular, the final award in the arbitration proceedings in The Hague on July 12, 2016, marked a historical event that has new and major implications for the Asia-Pacific. Despite the importance of the recent ruling, however, Malaysia’s approach to the South China Sea dispute, as outlined below, has remained constant. As a pivotal, nonaligned country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with… Read More »The Award Decision in the Philippines-China Arbitration Case: A Perspective from Malaysia

A Code of Conduct for the South China Sea: Effective Tool or Temporary Solution?

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Until 2013, the conflict in the South China Sea had been managed mainly through implementation of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC). The DoC requires the parties to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability in this area. At the 9th ASEAN-China Joint Working Group meeting in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, in September 2013, both sides agreed to give new impetus to the negotiation of a code of conduct (CoC) for the South China Sea. Since then, the massive land reclamation… Read More »A Code of Conduct for the South China Sea: Effective Tool or Temporary Solution?

Diverging Paths? Singapore-China Relations and the East Asian Maritime Domain

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Singapore and China are experiencing an unprecedented period of friction in their usually calm bilateral relations. Much of the divergence is over issues relating to the South China Sea, despite the fact that Singapore is not party to the sovereignty disputes. In particular, the two sides differ in their interpretations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and over regarding China’s reclamation of features in the South China Sea. Behind these differences lie divergent perspectives on the existing international order, international law, the management of maritime issues, and Singapore’s strategic partnership with the United States.… Read More »Diverging Paths? Singapore-China Relations and the East Asian Maritime Domain