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06 April 2017

Instability in maritime Asia – a defining challenge of our era – is likely to continue unless countries commit to transparency, cooperation, and re-establishment of the rule of law, a new report has set out.

The Policy Institute at King’s and Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) have mapped out the current geopolitical landscape of the Pacific, Indian and South East Asian Seas and identified new areas of cooperation between states.  

There is a willingness for cooperation and to ease tension in the region

Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, report co-author 

The Law of the Sea

In the report, authors warn that increasing failure to commit to Law of the Sea is far more troubling than the existence of territorial or maritime boundary disputes alone. The landscape of maritime security is set out within the context of political instability from North Korea, territorial disputes involving China and tensions with changing leadership in the US.

Disputes in the South China Sea are likely to dominate the agenda for the next decade and the changing dynamic between China and US is a major security concern for all Asian states.

“Disputes in the South China Sea are likely to dominate the agenda for the next decade.”

Whilst the global ocean is a single strategic space and considered so in the report, the authors consider challenges specific to sub-regional maritime zones: the North Pacific, Southeast Asian seas, and the Indian Ocean. 

Disputes in the South China Sea are an overriding security challenge, with increasing uncertainty and erosion of rule of law. China’s unwillingness to participate in a recent UNC Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), along with vague intentions, has seen a diminished level of trust in Xi Jinping’s state.  

The North Pacific presents security challenges in the face of Pyongyang’s unpredictability, and tense, sometimes violent confrontations between coast guards and Chinese fishing vessels have become commonplace. 

The Indian Ocean is seeing a current period of calm; however, such stability may be misleading the authors state, with actors outside of the regions, such as China and the U.S. are causing concern and interest.  

Opportunity for cooperation

The report is the result of a practitioner-focused workshop run by King’s and the DKI APCSS, which convened military, civilian government officials and scholars from around the world.  

‘The workshop and report has shown to me that there is a willingness for cooperation and to ease tension in the region,’ said Dr Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Senior Lecturer at King’s College London. Dr Pardo was co-editor on the report along with Kerry Lynn Nankivell, and Jeffrey Reeves, DKI APCSS

‘Solutions lie in transparency and cooperation, and collaboration in initiatives and exercises. This ultimately can strengthen the economics of the region and benefit all states,’ Dr Pacheco Pardo said. 

A full report can be read online.