March 28, 2013

CNAS Expert Proposes Path to Avoiding Conflict in East and South China Seas

Arresting deteriorating security relations in the East and South China Seas is an urgent U.S. priority, Patrick M. Cronin argues in the capstone essay of Flashpoints , a 15-month project undertaken by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).    

In Flashpoints: The Way Forward in the East and South China Seas, Dr. Cronin assesses the security environment in the maritime domain surrounding China, while offering several policy recommendations and some reasons for optimism in the regional disputes.

Download Flashpoints: The Way Forward in the East and South China Seas

Dr. Cronin, Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at CNAS, notes that there are several policy options available to leaders both in the United States and in the region that can mitigate the tensions and help reduce the chances of conflict in these critical seas. Most important, he writes, the United States can help turn the tide in the region toward peace and stability by advancing international law, reinforcing regional institutions, strengthening military capacity and confidence and reversing the perception of zero-sum relations with China.
This essay and eleven preceding Flashpoints Bulletins (enumerated below), along with a major report on the South China Sea, Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea , constitute a serious addition to the analysis of security issues arising from these two major seas in East Asia. 

When the Center for a New American Security launched a report and corresponding website detailing flashpoints in the East and South China Seas in January 2012, it seemed likely that tensions would increase in these two critical bodies of water. That forecast has borne out and the outlook today appears equally dim for future harmony in the East and South China Seas. The CNAS Flashpoints Bulletins have contributed to the understanding of the tension in the region by addressing the myriad security issues present in the critical maritime domains of the East and South China Seas as outlined below.

Bulletin 9: Finding Common Ground: Energy, Security and Cooperation in the South China Sea --Will Rogers argues that diffusing and avoiding conflict in the broader South China Sea dispute will require understanding the dynamics of the global economy's recovery from recession and the increasing demand for energy, particularly among emerging economies in South and East Asia.

Bulletin 8: The Challenge of Chinese Revisionism: The Expanding Role of China's Non-Military Maritime Vessels -- Zachary M. Hosford and Ely Ratner argue that recent actions by China's non-military law enforcement vessels indicate Beijing's desire to overturn the status quo and pose one of the most immediate threats to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Bulletin 7: A Competitive Turn: How Increased Chinese Maritime Actions Complicate U.S. Partnerships -- James R. Holmes argues that China's increasingly competitive actions in the East and South China Seas are further complicating U.S. efforts to forge maritime security coalitions and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region.

Bulletin 6: Contested Waters: Managing Disputes in the East and South China Seas -- Patrick M. Cronin contends that the United States must adopt a more detailed and tailored strategy toward the East and South China Seas and increase its engagement throughout the Asia-Pacific region through a wide range of military, diplomatic and economic tools.

Bulletin 5: The Sansha Garrison: China's Deliberate Escalation in the South China Sea -- Oriana Skylar Mastro argues that through its decision to build a military garrison in the city of Sansha, China is conducting a coordinated and deliberate campaign of coercive diplomacy in the South China Sea.

Bulletin 4: Influence for Sale? China's Trade, Investment and Assistance Policies in Southeast Asia -- Shanthi Kalathil argues that while China's significant investment in Southeast Asia has improved relations with Vietnam and other Southeast Asian neighbors in some ways, China's development projects have often alienated local populations, and its nationalistic rhetoric over the South China Sea has increasingly strained its relations with other South China Sea claimants.

Bulletin 3: Defending the Philippines: Military Modernization and the Challenges Ahead -- Richard D. Fisher, Jr. posits that China's increasing belligerence in the South China Sea has led the new president of the Philippines, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, to make the most credible policy commitment in decades to improve Philippine military capabilities.

Bulletin 2: Don't Forget About the East China Sea -- Michael Auslin argues that the East China Sea may be the most strategic location in all of Asia - rife with contested territorial claims, large military buildups among the principal players of the region and a geopolitical significance that impinges directly on long-standing U.S. security commitments.

Bulletin 1: Studying the South China Sea: The Chinese Perspective -- Yun Sun discusses three key features of the current research by the Chinese policy community on the South China Sea, highlights the work of four leading research institutions and studies on the issue, and presents online resources from China.
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The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.


Kay King
Director of External Relations
Ph: (202) 457-9408