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A More Active Neutrality: The Need for A Long Range U.S. Security Strategy in the South China Sea

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The United States has multiple discernable, but often times conflicting, interests in Asia. Focusing on the South China Sea territorial disputes, these conflicting interests become very clear and the importance of a coherent, long-term policy even clearer. First, the U.S. needs to promote peace in the region, ensuring access to commercial shipping upon which its allies in Northeast Asia depend, and affording passage for U.S. military deployments to the region and beyond. Next, the U.S. has strong interests in bolstering the security of its treaty partners in the region, such as the Republic of the Philippines. Finally, the U.S. needs to continue to engage China, to build a positive and productive relationship, and to do what it can to ensure China acts responsibly where its interests overlap those of the U.S. The current U.S. policy of passive neutrality in the South China Sea territorial disputes is doing nothing to protect these interests. By examining the growing territorial conflict between the Philippines and the PRC, this paper identifies the perspectives and interests of the U.S., China, the Philippines and ASEAN, as they relate to current U.S. policy in the region. It then identifies the need for the U.S. to play a more active role in the South China Sea dispute, being ever mindful of the threat increased U.S. activity in the region poses to the Chinese sense of security. Finally, it proposes practical solutions. Undesirable Chinese activity, such as its recent fortification of Mischief Reef, can be effectively constrained by maintaining an active presence in the region, as well as by publicizing undesirable Chinese activity in the court of international opinion.

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  • Government and Political Science

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