A joint strategy needs to build on a shared vision. A shared vision for a long-term stable and orderly South China Sea should draw a line in the sand against all types of assertive activities in the South China Sea and map out avenues for compulsory peaceful resolution of all disputes. It should include deadlines for negotiations among claimants involved in disputes, and automatic transition to third-party arbitration if negotiations fail to meet these deadlines, with or without China’s participation. This vision should also aim to protect the integrity of UNCLOS and operationalize it so as to define disputed maritime areas and non-disputed spaces. The issue of the legal regime to be applied to the Spratly and Paracel features could then be entrusted to a relevant arbitration court on the law of the sea.
Based on such a shared vision, a joint strategy would then be developed as an agreement among the United States and Southeast Asian claimants, which would include the following four basic elements: