The Working Paper argues that the maritime disputes over the South China Sea are characterised by a strategic and diplomatic status quo. China does so far not have the necessary power projection to impose naval hegemony in the South China Sea. None of the ASEAN claimants can rely on sufficient naval power or an external military alliance to impose their claims in the Spratly Islands. A similar situation of status quo exists on the diplomatic front. China and the ASEAN countries have been negotiating for years to conclude a code of conduct for the South China Sea. The 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea is based on a multilateral dimension as well as on a convergence of views on the need to peacefully manage the dispute. While a step in the right direction, the declaration is only an interim political agreement and it is still to be seen whether the parties will sign a detailed and binding code of conduct for the South China Sea. The Working Paper starts by reviewing the nature of the maritime disputes. It then describes the security environment in the South China Sea by examining the changing strategic conditions of the disputes. Its final section discusses the long diplomatic road toward the 2002 Declaration. The Working Paper concludes that the South China Sea has remained primarily a political rather than a military issue thanks to China’s desire to accommodate the Southeast Asian countries and the limited naval capabilities available to the different claimants.
East Asia and Asia Pacific / Southeast Asia and ASEAN / Working Papers
Last updated on 01/07/2014