Five and a half years on from the international arbitral tribunal’s rejection of China’s expansive South China Sea claims in July 2016, the international maritime order in East Asia clearly is in trouble. China is continuing to consolidate its control over the Paracel Islands and most of the Spratleys group and is increasing its encroachments on the recognised exclusive economic zones of most of the South China Sea’s littoral states with relative impunity. The Philippines and Vietnam in particular have suffered numerous Chinese incursions, and Indonesia’s Natuna Islands and more recently Malaysia’s EEZ have been targeted in China’s bid to control the southern waters of the first island chain.
The region’s maritime order under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is central to the rules-based order that Australia, India, Japan, the US and other like-minded states hold to be central to regional security and prosperity. Yet China’s grey-zone tactics are continuing apace, weakening the authority and relevance of UNCLOS in the absence of a coordinated and unified regional stance supporting its rules and authority both in principle and in practice.
Please click here to read the full “Boosting maritime law enforcement in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea” article published at The Strategist, written by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Professor Michael Heazle.