June 22, 2018

Toward a New Maritime Strategy in the South China Sea

By Patrick M. Cronin and Melodie Ha

China’s attempts at unilaterally changing the status quo in maritime Asia are most visible in the South China Sea, where previously small land features are now burgeoning military outposts. The United States needs to retool its approach to China in the Western Pacific and move toward a new maritime strategy.

China’s buildup of armed forces and installations on disputed islands in the South China Sea highlights twin ambitions of solidifying expansive territorial claims and demonstrating Beijing’s growing military reach out to the Second Island Chain and beyond. Landing long-range H-6K bombers on China’s largest outpost in the Paracel archipelago could presage similar moves on the Subi, Mischief, and Fiery Cross Reefs in the Spratly Islands. The fortification of South China Sea installations is both a byproduct of and a means to so-called gray-zone challenges to the existing order. China seeks to change the status quo through incremental actions, mobilizing both military and paramilitary forces, and threats of coercion — but stopping short of steps that might trigger conflict.

The United States is pursuing several lines of effort to counter Chinese aggression, including naming and shaming China’s unilateral assertions, bolstering allied and partner capacity, and conducting more frequent but routine freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs). In response to China’s destabilizing moves in the Spratly and Paracel Islands, the U.S. disinvited the People’s Liberation Army Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise in late July, citing that China’s actions undermine regional security, transparency, and freedom of the seas. Despite this increased effort, there are still key areas lacking in the proposed U.S. maritime strategy.



Read the Full Article at The Diplomat

  • Commentary
    • January 22, 2020
    Challenging China’s Bid for App Dominance

    Social media platforms are emerging as central to China’s efforts to shape the global information architecture....

    By Kristine Lee & Karina Barbesino

  • Podcast
    • January 17, 2020
    Stories from the Backchannel: Season Two Trailer

    Now more than ever, Americans are interested in the people working behind the scenes on consequential national security decisions. In Season Two of Stories from the Backchanne...

    By Ilan Goldenberg, Richard Fontaine, Susanna V. Blume, Kayla M. Williams, Price B. Floyd, Kurt Campbell & Kara Frederick

  • Commentary
    • War on the Rocks
    • January 15, 2020
    Defense Strategy for a Post-Trump World

    In a recent piece warning about an emerging arms race in hypersonic missiles, The New York Times quoted Will Roper, the Air Force’s senior acquisition and technology official,...

    By Van Jackson

  • Reports
    • January 8, 2020
    Total Competition

    China’s coercive attempts to wield hegemonic control over the South China Sea threaten the sovereignty of Southeast Asian states and international freedom of the seas, both of...

    By Patrick M. Cronin & Ryan Neuhard

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia