The Pacific island countries (PICs) face many challenges to their security. Domestically they have problems of slow economic growth, high unemployment, fast rates of population growth, and governance, including corruption. Externally they face difficulties in managing their large areas of maritime jurisdiction, which are mostly ‘fish rich’ and vulnerable to illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and other forms of illegal activity at sea. Maintaining sovereignty over these maritime areas, as well as over their remote and thinly populated islands, is an ongoing challenge.
The PICs are often regarded as a strategic backwater, but they are always at risk of becoming an area of competition between the major Pacific powers, China, Japan and the United States. Calls have also been made recently for India to become more involved in the region. The extent of Chinese aid and loans to the PICs has attracted considerable criticism recently, especially in Australia. Tensions in the region may also increase in the near future with UN-sponsored independence referendums due to be held in New Caledonia and Bougainville within the next two years.
This seminar will address security issues in the PICs, including the implications of increased Chinese involvement in the region. Maritime security will be a particular focus, including a review of the threats faced by the island states, their need for capacity-building assistance, and the importance of cooperative frameworks to manage security in the region.
About the Speaker
Sam Bateman retired from the Royal Australian Navy as a Commodore (one-star) and is now a Professorial Research Fellow at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) at the University of Wollongong in Australia, and an Adviser to the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Sam has written extensively on defence and maritime issues in Australia, the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean, and was awarded his PhD from the University of NSW for a dissertation on “The Strategic and Political Aspects of the Law of the Sea in East Asian Seas”. Over the years, he has conducted several studies of maritime security in the Pacific islands, including a recent study of maritime and border security arrangements in Papua New Guinea (PNG) for the PNG Government.