The East Sea

Vietnam’s ‘Soft Diplomacy’ in the South China Sea

The sea breeze found us on a fast boat bound for Ly Son Island, located about 15 nautical miles off Vietnam’s Central Coast. For centuries, the island has served as a base for their fishermen to venture into the dangerous Paracels Archipelago.

On board, marine scientist Dr. Chu Manh Trinh described to me the urgent need for a clarion call to all South China Sea claimants to join forces in tackling environmental offshore degradation and the depletion of natural resources through ecological science and cooperation. [READ MORE]

Cold War in the South China Sea

In February, President Barack Obama hosted a summit for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at Rancho Mirage, California, as part of his effort to rebalance US foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific.

ASEAN, a group of governments that includes democracies, communist states and absolute monarchs and which was formed “to promote political and economic cooperation and regional stability,” met to discuss important issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and North Korea’s nuclear program. [READ MORE]

Fiery Cross Reef: Why China's New South China Sea Airstrip Matters

Although China is not the first state to build an airstrip in the South China Sea, it is the first state to employ island-building technologies to transform a contested maritime feature into a military base that extends the reach of offensive military capabilities. Other countries have worked to project power to contested South China Sea features; with the airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef, China has worked to project power from them.

For context, Beijing’s efforts to militarize Fiery Cross Reef are only a small part of China’s massive and controversial program to create a “Great Wall of Sand” across the South China Sea – in the words of the previous Commander of Pacific Fleet.[READ MORE]

5 questions every presidential candidate should answer: South China Sea edition

China’s seizure of seven islets and reefs in the South China Sea, and its ongoing conversion of these features into military installations, complete with evolving port facilities and a 10,000-foot runway, makes clear that this territorial seizure is of far greater significance than media coverage and administration comments would suggest.

In fact, China’s actions have military, economic, diplomatic and energy components, each of which is of great importance to the United States, its regional allies and partners, and every nation whose seaborne commerce traverses the South China Sea. [READ MORE]