South China Sea

A protester sticks posters outside the Chinese embassy following reports that China has encroached on Indonesia’s maritime area in the South China Sea, in Jakarta, Indonesia, 8 December 2021. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters)

South China Sea dispute: Why can't Southeast Asian countries stand united against China's claims?

Amid the spectre of China's growing assertiveness in the South China Sea, Indonesia plans to convene a meeting with some of its ASEAN colleagues — including the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore. If the meeting happens, Beijing may not dial down its activities in the disputed areas, but the point would have been made that Indonesia is prepared to take the lead in galvanising ASEAN on South China Sea matters. The idea of a meeting is not new, but this time it might just work.
A nuclear-powered Type 094A Jin-class ballistic missile submarine of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is seen during a military display in the South China Sea, 12 April 2018. (Stringer/File Photo/Reuters)

China’s ‘hegemony with Chinese characteristics’ in the South China Sea

Though in word it professes to never seek hegemony or bully smaller countries, in deed, China behaves unilaterally and flexes its economic and political muscles for dominance in the South China Sea, says Indian academic Amrita Jash.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (right) shake hands after a bilateral meeting at Camp Aguinaldo military camp in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 30 July 2021. (Rolex Dela Pena/Pool via Reuters)

Mind the gaps, fill the needs: A strategic outlook for the Philippine-US alliance

The Philippines begrudgingly notes the disparity of treatment across US alliances in Asia, as well as Washington’s shift to enhancing engagements with non-treaty partners, such as visits by top US leaders to Singapore, Hanoi, Seoul, and Tokyo, while leaving out Manila. Washington has also shifted to enhancing engagements with alliances such as AUKUS, even as Philippines-US cooperation seems to be deficient in several areas and in security, greatly focused on counter-terrorism operations in Mindanao. Academic Julio S. Amador III says the Philippines must step up to play its part and articulate its key interests better.
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell unveiling the EU’s Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, September 2021. (Facebook/European Union in Australia)

The EU in the Indo-Pacific: A new strategy with implications for ASEAN

The European Council reached an agreement on an EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in April 2021, and in September, it presented a joint communication in which ASEAN was mentioned 31 times, paving the way for the EU to join the other longstanding advocates of the Indo-Pacific strategy. Given the similarities in ASEAN's Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the EU's Indo-Pacific strategy, ASEAN can play a role in the EU's hopes to shape a rules-based international order and offer a rules-based alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (centre right) speaks with Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei (centre) in Liverpool, northwest England on 12 December 2021, at the ASEAN-G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting. (Olivier Douliery/AFP)

ASEAN and the G7: Same bed, different dreams

ISEAS researcher Joanne Lin notes that the G7 is courting ASEAN in a bid to increase its profile in the Indo-Pacific. And while both groups share some common ground on issues such as the South China Sea and supply chains, they also diverge in significant ways on other issues such as supporting values of democracy and human rights, which stems as much from differences within ASEAN as the fact that expressing such views draws the ire of China.
An Indonesian Naval cadets uses binoculars as he monitors the signal from the KRI Diponegoro-365 during a joint excercise on guarding Indonesia's borders, in the North Natuna sea, Riau islands, Indonesia, 1 October 2021. (Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja/via Reuters)

Indonesia's response to China’s incursions in North Natuna Sea unsatisfactory: Indonesian academic

Indonesian academic Evan A. Laksmana notes that China has subjected Indonesia to maritime grey zone tactics in the South China Sea, attempting to change the strategic equation at sea and beyond without provoking a direct conflict. While Chinese incursions into the North Natuna Sea in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) have increased, Indonesia has kept mum and appears unprepared to counter these actions. Laksmana examines the reasons behind Indonesian policymakers' reserved response.
 Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi (left) and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. (Wikimedia)

Dealing with challenges of a rising China in the Indo-Pacific: Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

What drives the interest of the West and Japan in the Indo-Pacific? Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is also president of Asia Society Policy Institute, present two perspectives from the region. This opinion piece was first published in THE BERLIN PULSE, Körber-Stiftung or the Körber Foundation’s guide to German foreign policy.
Sailors assigned to the submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) return home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, April 2017. (US Navy/flickr)

Submarines overcrowding the South China Sea: A major accident could happen

In early October, the US submarine USS Connecticut hit an "uncharted seamount" underwater, prompting an investigation leading to the removal of the captain and two officers. However, this is not the only incident involving US Navy vessels, which only underscores issues such as operational demands in keeping up with China's activities, as well as the fact that the South China Sea is indeed becoming congested with submarines, with little communication between various users. ISEAS academic Ian Storey tells us more.
Divers swim above a bed of dead corals off Malaysia's Tioman island in the South China Sea, 4 May 2008. (David Loh/File Photo/Reuters)

Marine science collaborations can help defuse tensions in the South China Sea

With environmental security shaping a new South China Sea conversation about ecological challenges, science cooperation represents a litmus test to link the impact of environmental change to both national and international security, and can offer a means to defuse tensions, says James Borton. His new book, Dispatches from the South China Sea: Navigating to Common Ground, will be released soon.