- Global economic interdependence and the dilemmas of geopolitics coexist in parallel. Marine resources have become an increasingly important factor in Asian countries’ strategic interests. The shift of the world’s economic and geopolitical centres towards Asia has brought forth the focus on geopolitical dynamics in the region, amongst key players such as China, India, Japan, and the United States. This and other factors have led to several maritime disputes in the region. Although great power competition exists in the contemporary world, it cannot be compared with past instances, given the different nature of these powers.
- The need for an oceans policy flows from the challenges of managing extended maritime zones of jurisdiction. This follows the promulgation of UNCLOS, coupled with the growing interconnectedness of ocean spaces and increased human usage of the global maritime commons. There are international and regional regimes that were designed to promote oceans management; hard and soft laws. However, there are problems with such legal frameworks. Therefore, it might be necessary for governments to conceive their own oceans policies.
- The notion of “small” as in small navies remains a relative issue and is an issue of power asymmetry. However, there has been marginalisation of small navies vis-à-vis major navies for a long time. Despite navies being commonly used to pursue national interests, deterrence at sea for small navies has been underexplored. There are twin-pronged concepts of deterrence, namely, deterrence by punishment and deterrence by denial. Smaller, weaker navies are more likely to go for the latter. However, where governments can integrate the naval build-up effort within the broader maritime community, small but effective navies “can punch above their weight”, being able to help shape the regional or international contexts.
- International and regional conventions as well as national guidelines for effective management of maritime sovereignty and jurisdiction have brought forth the need to strengthen maritime law enforcement in peacetime. Navies have long regarded peacetime constabulary roles with disdain. However, coast guards continue to suffer from definitional problems; some exist as a single, unified force performing a full range of maritime law enforcement missions whereas others exist as a collection of agencies. While coast guards and navies can and should cooperate both during times of peace and war, the realities of modern conflict mean that navies will be the primary force in war, with the coast guard retained for lesser contingencies.
- Security in the maritime domain is a challenging issue, with multiple threats and risks ranging from increases in maritime traffic and accidents at sea; to tense relationships between neighbouring countries, and issues such as disputed fisheries, etc. Balancing navies and coast guards requires greater efforts devoted to coordination between both civil and military agencies in the conduct of maritime security functions.
- The risks of escalation at sea should not be over-exaggerated. However, the existing concerns about crisis stability at sea have largely revolved around naval/military forces. Given the fact that coast guards are increasingly observed on the frontlines of asserting national maritime claims in East Asia, an impetus must be placed on confidence-building measures (CBMs) with respect to coast guards in the region.
Conflict and Stability / East Asia and Asia Pacific / Europe / Event Reports / Maritime Security
Last updated on 06/09/2018