With the standoff between China and Vietnam at the disputed Vanguard Bank ended, it makes sense to take stock of how Hanoi's security strategy fared in countering Chinese coercion. It may be time for Vietnam to consider a careful recalibration to allow for more “struggle” and less “cooperation.”
What can Vietnam do now to make Chinese assertiveness against it less likely going forward? Although deepening the U.S.-Vietnam defense partnership in the short-term may be contributing to trouble with China, closer cooperation in the long-run could serve to deter China. Enhancing cooperation with Vietnam's other defense partners—namely Australia, Japan, and India—could help to deter Beijing as well.
Some leaders in Southeast Asia may fear that new or enhanced postures in the South China Sea could antagonize China. But directly calling out China's breaks from the status quo or intimidation tactics may not necessarily put these countries at risk of Chinese countermeasures.
The Arctic defies simplistic views of geopolitical friends and foes. The United States and its allies do not necessarily agree on key issues, while U.S. strategic competitors might find common ground with America. The United States could fine-tune its defense policy tools in the Arctic to ensure that its actions do not hamper relations with allies and shore up the position of adversaries.
Even in its resurrected form, the Quad could be in danger of failing to achieve its mission. The Quad might consider getting its house in order by extending dialogue partnerships to ASEAN maritime counterclaimant states.
Despite a daunting set of maritime challenges, Indonesia has placed renewed emphasis on maritime security governance. While the programs in place may take decades to bear fruit, Indonesia is on the path to securing the waterways and infrastructure so key to its overall economic development.
Vietnam has sought to balance China's expanding presence in the South China Sea through diplomacy and military modernization. The Vietnam People's Army has acquired many useful weapons, but unfamiliarity with combat in the sea and air will test its evolving military doctrine.
China's recent move to transfer responsibility for the China Coast Guard to the People's Armed Police will have major symbolic implications for China's presence in disputed waters. It can no longer claim its presence in the South China Sea is purely civilian in nature.
Vietnam in March very publicly engaged in a string of activities to strengthen deterrence against China in the South China Sea. But Hanoi's push to deepen external defense ties with states that can help its cause will not necessarily translate into greater risk-taking in the region.
The shift in U.S. climate policy away from greenhouse gas reduction is significant for the Arctic, which is experiencing global warming at an accelerated rate. And a recent executive order will pave the way for expanded oil and gas drilling. How will these changes shape the Arctic in years to come?
Coast guards, not navies, are the new asset of choice in East and Southeast Asia to assert sovereignty over disputed waters. China has been expanding its coast guard fleet and many states, like Vietnam and the Philippines, lack the funds to match it.
China has probably tolerated Vietnam's South China Sea construction activities because it feels confident in its military position in the region. Chinese leaders might change their stance if they believe Vietnam is trying to enlist the support of the U.S. or other partners to settle bilateral disputes.
China and Japan are engaged in a long-term test of wills over disputed waters and territory in the East China Sea. The Japanese government has acknowledged the challenge it faces and has begun to invest in infrastructure and personnel projects to address it.
As Asia-Pacific countries develop policies to regulate maritime zones of jurisdiction, the importance of coast guards as instruments of state policy has been growing. Taiwan's Coast Guard is an increasingly effective force.
In the Yellow Sea and elsewhere, Chinese fishermen have shown an increasing willingness to challenge attempts by coast guards to enforce fishing laws. Earlier this week, after repeated warnings, the Korea Coast Guard opened fire on a Chinese vessel fishing illegally in Korean waters.
The PCA found in July that China's coast guard had breached several UNCLOS articles governing safety and navigation at sea. Hopefully, this will help build a legal case that abiding by basic maritime safety principles is in the interest of all countries, including China.
Since the PCA tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines' case on July 12, invalidating many of China's claims in the South China Sea, Beijing has sought to demonstrate its military strength in the region. The PLAAF's H-6K has played a key role.
On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines' claims to maritime entitlements in the South China Sea. How China reacts could have far-reaching consequences for all nations that depend on a peaceful and integrated Southeast Asia.
The notion that Southeast Asian countries should employ coast guards instead of navies to enforce maritime laws had been gaining currency. But many of the coast guard fleets lack sufficient capacity to deal with the threats along their coast and in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
What compels compliance with rulings based on international law? Whether or not China will pay a political price for ignoring a U.N. Law of the Sea Convention ruling will to a large degree be determined by how forceful other states respond in the aftermath of court action.
A spate of high-profile diplomatic feuds and military actions related to the South China Sea has raised concern about the direction of U.S.-China relations. Neither country is well positioned politically or economically to engage in a long-term, antagonistic relationship, let alone a major conflict.
The first ever Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit held on U.S. soil took place earlier this month. Its success should be measured by the fact that the U.S. prioritized relations with the region enough to host its first summit. It should be regarded as the beginning of a new era in U.S.-ASEAN relations.
By contributing to coast guard capacity building by donating ships and funding, the United States has found an important and politically viable avenue to bolster maritme security to partners and allies in Southeast Asia.
On October 27, the USS Lassen carried out the first freedom of navigation patrol to challenge China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. In assessing China's potential response to follow-on operations, the extremes of either complete inaction or a military attack can be ruled out.
Even if China really sees itself as undertaking legitimate activities to protect its rightful interests, it is not surprising that its rival claimants, as well as the United States and other countries in the region, see Beijing's island building activities as efforts to improve China's abilities to bully its neighbors.
Russia possesses the world's most Arctic shoreline, water, and operating resources. But the United States is also an Arctic nation, even if much of the American public tends to under-appreciate this special status.
It is possible that at some point, anti-Japan protests could slip beyond the regime's control, and Party leaders worry that mishandling such tensions could affect the regime's legitimacy—and ultimately erode its grip on power, writes Scott Harold.
The United States has yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. As a result, the U.S., the world's leading maritime power, is at a military and economic disadvantage, write Thad W. Allen, Richard L. Armitage, and John J. Hamre.
Containing persistent maritime disorder might be more fruitful and could lay the foundations for a successful transition to better use of the sea once the societal factors—an even longer term problem—have been resolved, writes Laurence Smallman.
RFERL.org, the website of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty
As recent events off the Horn of Africa have demonstrated, armed violence at sea is emerging as a growing threat.... Piracy, in particular, threatens the freedom of the seas, increases the cost of international business, endangers political security through corruption, and could trigger a major environmental disaster, write Peter Chalk, Laurence Smallman.