New U.S. Security Strategy Doesn’t Go Far Enough on South China Sea


The Pentagon just released an “Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy.” The document articulates three regional maritime objectives heretofore insufficiently stressed and linked: “to safeguard the freedom of the seas; deter conflict and coercion; and promote adherence to international law and standards.” Long-overdue, the strategy represents a positive contribution, but remains far from sufficient.

First, the strengths:

The Pentagon understands the importance of following the money. It documents the importance of international sea-lanes in general, and the Indian Ocean, South China Sea (SCS), and East China Sea (ECS) in particular, to American interests. Two-thirds of world oil shipments transit the Indian Ocean, with more than 15 million barrels of oil transiting the Malacca Strait daily in 2014. The Asia-Pacific boasts eight of the ten busiest global container ports. The SCS alone is home to 10% of global fisheries production and may contain 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Nearly 30% of global maritime trade transits its waters annually, including about $1.2 trillion in ship borne trade bound for U.S. ports. ECS figures are 200 million barrels of oil and 1-2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.


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