Two recent developments in the ongoing South China Sea dispute would suggest countries in the region are getting closer to a peaceful resolution. The first emerged when Japan proposed an intergovernmental "Shangri-La Dialogue Initiative" (SDI) aimed at fostering disaster preparedness, maritime domain awareness, and crisis management. The SDI could become a vital platform for countries in the region to share information, negotiate disputes, and develop management frameworks for natural resources, shipping lanes, and territorial claims. It builds on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "three principles for the rule of law" in the South China Sea. Here's Tetsuo Kotani's breakdown:
In view of rising territorial and maritime tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, Abe called for countries to make and clarify claims based on international law, to avoid using force or coercion in resolving conflicts, and to seek to settle disputes by peaceful means. Putting these three principles of the rule of law into practice is essential for the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.
Sounds nice, but isn't the conflict unresolved in part because international law is ambiguous with respect to territorial and maritime claims? It seems difficult to imagine China signing on to the SDI. But here's Kotani again:
The next step is to establish a code of conduct in the maritime and air domains. Similar efforts are being made between the United States and China, and between ASEAN and China. These efforts are designed to manage crises through the application of existing international law (UNCLOS) and international rules (such as COLREGS and CUES). If they prove successful, they will contribute substantially to establishing the rule of law in Asian seas.
So there's some indication that China may be willing to participate, as evidenced by those bilateral peacebuilding efforts with Japan and the United States. And that leads to the second development that might signal a warming in relations:Read More