On its face, the presence of coast guards patrolling large bodies of disputed territory, for example in the South China Sea, might be cause for optimism, as coast guards can be viewed as less escalatory and possess limited war-fighting capabilities. Coast guards are in general a more flexible asset and have the capacity to serve as a source for stability and intrastate cooperation by conducting, for example, joint search and rescue, maritime environmental protection, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations. These are issues that states in theory have an interest in working multilaterally to address. The way in which coast guards are employed in the South China Sea, however, gives more cause for concern than optimism. For many nations, in particular China, coast guards are being used as blunt instruments of state power to repel and intimidate rival claimants from disputed waters. This talk will highlight the role of coast guards in East and Southeast Asia and the implications of the use of maritime law enforcement to assert territorial claims in disputed waters in Asia.
About the Speaker
Lyle J. Morris is a Senior Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation, where he leads projects on Asia-Pacific maritime and military affairs for U.S. government clients. Prior to joining RAND, Morris was the 2010-11 Next Generation Fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) and a research intern with the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). From 2004 to 2008, Morris lived in Beijing, China, where he studied Mandarin Chinese at Peking and Tsinghua Universities and later worked at Dentsu Advertising and the China Economist Journal. Morris received his master’s degree in international affairs from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), where he was the recipient of the George C. Marshall Prize in Strategic Studies for his paper on China’s experience with confidence-building measures. He holds a certificate in East Asian Studies from Columbia’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. He received his bachelor’s degree in international business from Western Washington University.