This workshop discussed issues related to Freedoms of Navigation and Overflight, paying particular attention to the various Southeast Asian perspectives. It reviewed the strategic and economic importance of freedoms of navigation, examined some of the legal and language issues related to freedoms of navigation, highlighted the perspectives of several Southeast Asian states on freedoms of navigation, and tried to find prospects for a common understanding of the central issues related to freedoms of navigation.
The three main findings are:
First, the economic importance of the South China Sea for non-littoral countries was often overstated. Its greatest importance was to accommodate seaborne trade between Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, and trade within Southeast Asia. Even though the economic dependence on the South China Sea for extra-regional countries is relatively small, states like the U.S. and Australia often exaggerate this dependence in order to assert their strategic interest in the sea or to extend freedoms of navigation to military vessels. The fact, however, is that China and Southeast Asian countries would be most affected if freedoms of navigation across the South China Sea were disrupted.
Second, the main difference between some Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states and extra-regional powers was that some ASEAN states do not necessarily think of freedoms of navigation, but rather of Rights of Navigation. This shows that major powers seek extensive freedoms and rights, whereas smaller coastal states generally emphasize their territorial control and integrity. In this regard, the workshop noted that the phrase “Freedom of Navigation” has become a sensitive topic for some ASEAN states because they perceived user states as using the phrase frequently to push for extensive navigational rights.
The third major finding was confirmation of the view that perceptions of law of the sea issues, freedoms of navigation in particular, vary widely both within Southeast Asia, and between most ASEAN countries and major extra-regional powers. Similarly, the two major powers, the U.S. and China — clearly have different views on key issues. With the law of the sea being so important, the differences in perspective make it difficult to establish a stable maritime security regime in the region. Developing a common view on some of the key 7 issues would, therefore, constitute an important step towards that regime.
In addition to the various issues addressed above, the workshop highlighted several issues to be considered for further research. These issues include the economic dependencies on the South China Sea, the role of language, the development of bilateral understandings between the U.S. and China, the possibility of a joint-resource exploration in the South China Sea, and the issue of archipelagic passage and straits transit passage, including the right of
East Asia and Asia Pacific / Event Reports / International Politics and Security / Maritime Security / Southeast Asia and ASEAN
Last updated on 08/08/2017