The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Governing South China Sea Affairs: Will Cooperation and Joint Development Affect Peace?

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on June 13, 2013

Since disputes that occurred in the 1980s,  affairs in the South China Sea have reflected and validated the notion of anarchy from a realist perspective. Governance over dispute settlements and other matters in the region has been absent, while each claimant tends to enforce a unilateral policy to secure its national interests. The ASEAN-facilitated effort to find a solution among the claimants in the disputed region has so far been modest in achievement.

ASEAN’s relative success in bringing the claimants into negotiation forum is an important aspect for building peace, but there are certain factors to be resolved if the claimants are determined to find peaceful settlement. First, the challenge to form a regulation (i.e. the Code of Conduct) that is acceptable to all of the claimants. In order to cope with this, compromises need to be made and incentives for compliance and cooperation need to be provided. Second, the absence mutual confidence that has been constraining diplomacy between the claimants. The options to bridge the mutual distrusts among the claimants are limited by insecurity complex generated by the balance of power in the region.  A respected leadership may be required as the bridge in the absence of mutual confidence.

In the effort to conclude an agreement, provide incentives for compliance, and build confidence, sufficient resources are fundamental. China and ASEAN has to work together and exert all possible resources, both internal and external. The on-going regional economic integration in East Asia (internal resources) can be expected to extend to South China Sea development for as long as the claimants are willing to accept and cooperate. In addition, the international community is more likely to be willing to support peaceful settlement to everyone’s benefit instead of allowing the conflict to cause strike to the regional economy. This support should be treated as opportunity for creating ways of solution to the dispute. If ASEAN and China can work together to do this, the world can expect to see economic integration also flourish in the South China Sea.

This blog post has been written by Meidi Kosandi. Meidi is a PhD candidate in International Relations at Ritsumeikan University, Japan and a Junior Fellow for 2012 under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.


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