Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The South China Sea: Beijing’s Challenge to ASEAN and UNCLOS and the Necessity of a New Multi-tiered Approach

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No. 307 dated 29 August 2017The South China Sea: Beijing’s Challenge to ASEAN and UNCLOS and the Necessity of a New Multi-tiered Approach

By Christopher Roberts


This Working Paper examines the South China Sea disputes and primarily focuses on developments since 2013 when the Philippines filed for international arbitration. The first part of the paper examines how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China reacted to the arbitral process and the potential for the Association to undertake an effective and unified position in the future. The second part of the article builds on the analysis by assessing the prospects for, and likely impact of, the long-sought Code of Conduct. In the process, it examines the continued viability of ASEAN’s consensus-based decision-making approach, whether and how it could be reformed, and the potential benefits and viability of a new institutional arrangement with membership based on shared values and interests (rather than geography). The paper also argues that to enhance the possibility of redress on the issue, other key stakeholder states (such as Japan, Australia, India, and the United States) will need to be more strongly engaged and support claimant countries through a diverse array of activities. Such activities range from investments in capacity building to the provision of coastguards (if invited) to police and protect resources within the Exclusive Economic Zones of claimant states, as clarified by the July 2016 Arbitral Ruling.

Click on the following link to download the working paper

Dr Christopher Roberts is an Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales within the Australian Defence Force Academy campus. He specialises in the politics and security of the Indo-Pacific including great and middle power dynamics, the South China Sea, ASEAN, the drivers and constraints to international collaboration and competition, and the pre-conditions to peace and post-conflict resolution. Christopher lived in Japan and Singapore for five years and has nearly two decades of field experience throughout Asia including all the ASEAN nations plus Japan, South Korea, and China. Christopher has completed over fifty publications including books (2 sole authored and 2 edited), journal articles, chapters, conference papers, commentaries, and reports. These works have also addressed the politics, security, and foreign policy approaches of Myanmar, Brunei, Laos, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Australia.

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