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Imbalanced Strategy: Confronting China in the South China Sea

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[Technical Report, Master's Thesis]

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The South China Sea SCS is an immensely rich maritime resource, and those states that form its rim covet its bounty dearly. Its largest resident, the Peoples Republic of China, has claimed indisputable sovereignty over almost all of it. Chinas claim clearly disregards the sovereignty of the Southeast Asian nations and their more modest claims, and it has evaded efforts to resolve the disputes. In addition, China has expanded its civil and military maritime forces in the SCS. This strategy has provoked and intimidated Chinas neighbors, who have sought US assistance in securing their claims and secured access to the international commons. This paper argues that US and Southeast Asian relations with China are nearing a critical juncture at which the former two must either acquiesce to Chinese maritime imperialism, or change their strategies to compel China to conform to international laws that govern maritime affairs. With or without US intervention, the SCS rim states will soon settle upon a new status quo that corrects for a more assertive, powerful, and resource-hungry China. If the United States seeks a favorable outcome, it must first compel the Southeast Asian states to resolve their own disputes and present a united front in their attempt to coerce China to negotiate a reasonable, legal solution.


Subject Categories:

  • Geography
  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law

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[A, Approved For Public Release]