Indo-Pacific Maritime Competition, a Race between US and China?


Once again, James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara provides us with a very balanced and detailed analysis of the US-Sino competition in the maritime sphere.

Click here for the articles.


East China Sea Disputes, Potentially Most Explosive?


Qn2 : “The conflicting claims by China, Japan and Taiwan to the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea is the maritime territorial dispute with “the greatest potential for dangerous escalation” in the region. In answering whether you agree or disagree with this statement, compare the situation in the East China Sea with the island disputes in the South China Sea and Sea of Japan.”

As the global trend of territorial expansion via clamiant increases, it is no wonder that Asia, with its unique ways of conflict resolution. seems plagued with an unusual amount of disputes. The emergent superpower to be, China, while increasing its economical clot globally, is eager to extend its influence beyond its mainlands. The untold riches of old, in the form of oil and gas reserves underneath the rockbeds of the ocean, seems to beckon not just China, but also developing states in ASEAN, Japan and Korea. The dispute inevitably also draws in the United States as it continues its influence in the area via its allies, flagging economic power and United States Navy.

The seas in the region, or the Indo-Pacific is dotted with numerous claimant disputes, including the most potentially explosive dispute, involving the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea. The claimants for the islands includes China, Japan and Taiwan. With the involvement of these states, the United States is the background player, lending its military weight to Japan, its ally in the region.

However, we also must recognise that, while China is intensely looking at the progress of the Senkaku/Diaoyu disputes, it has also has other claimant issues with other states. So does Japan. The Spratly Islands involves numerous claimaint as it involves a chain of islands, with different claimant taking various stand on their claims. The Takeshima/Dok-do Island is ladened with historical baggages as Japan and Korea has not always been the best neighbours. Kuril Island in the north of Japan is also in dispute with Russia’s claimant dating back to WWII. Of course, there is Okinotori-Shima’s EEZ issue which remains unanswered. The Senkaku/Diaoyu stands unique in the sense that it has international eyes on the issue and thus, may be less explosive as the world, US in particular, seeks to restrain both sides. The numerous unseen issues in the region, however, may be more explosive than meet the eye.

UNCLOS, its pros and cons for all involved



Qn 1 “The balance between coastal state control over adjacent waters and the freedoms available to the users of these waters appears to be shifting towards coastal state interests. Analyse this trend in the context of the major passage regimes under UNCLOS (innocent, archipelagic, straits passage) and discuss the major implications for regional maritime security and naval freedoms of navigation?”

With 90% of the world’s trade going by the seas, coastal states with influence over the major Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) wield political clot beyond their size. With simple blockade or other less warlike measures, a small nation can threaten choke off the bloodlines of major developing countries which are dependent on the resources the sea brings. Even simply by not doing anything, the state can allow the regional pirates to extract their own brand of tariffs from transiting in their homegrounds. With the ongoing global trend of looking at the seas for expansion, more and more coastal states are exerting their claims over islands groups and seeking to influence the trade that goes through their waters.

The United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) seeks to even out the game for maritime traders by defining certain rules and regulations in their use of the world’s oceans as well as the responsibilities of the littoral states to safeguard the safe passages of the sea. However, one can only wonder what incentive a state can have to protect its adjacent waters when it may be facing internal problems on land. At the same time, are the responsibilities inferred onto the state fair to the littoral states given that the benefits of the safe passage goes to other nations? However, for the common global good, we cannot deny that safe navigation and freedom of the sea lanes benefits all involved but how can we ensure that the goodies flow to the states that does the ensuring of safe passage?

On the other hand, an examination of UNCLOS and its uses by the coastal states big and small shows inconsistency in its applications. Often, it has been criticized that UNCLOS, as a set of law is too vague and ill-defined to be applied effectively. At the same time, as a supra-national organization, the UN lacks the ability and political will to enforce its own laws upon its member sovereign states. While we may all tentatively agree that the existence of UNCLOS has cleared up misconceptions and lay the grounds for deliberation, how many members will want to use the UNCLOS if it judges that the use of the UNCLOS will only result in it losing benefits that otherwise hold?

Samsung Push

Found out something hilarious on my phone this morning. If you have a Samsung phone that uses Samsung Push and don’t know what the app is for, go read the reviews for the app in your playstore… It lets you use the Force!!!

For those of you with no Samsung phones, click here..


Maritime Awareness in the Age of Information


Humans are essentially land dwellers and as Julian Corbett said in his “Some Principles of Maritime Strategy“, it is the actions of an army on an adversary and what the
navy can do to assist the army which will decide the victor between nations at war. Unknown to most of us, 90% of the world’ trade is still dependent on the sea and the vessels that travel on it. If you take out everything that goes by the sea to reach your house, you will have quite an empty home. Globalization, a much used word in this age of Information, hails the age where, thanks to technology of air transport and the Internet, narrows the distance between nations and people. However, globalization is still founded on the opening of sea lanes as much as the Internet cables are laid beneath the ocean floors.

Without the freedom of navigation and open sea trading lances, the ease at which we are able to get our necessities and information through the Internet is no longer available. My wife once remarked that in Singapore, anything that was once exclusively available in another country, will be available here within 6 months. Without the efficiency of our seaport and the numerous trading lanes that passes through here, this would not have been possible. Imagine Singapore being cut off from trade, we will be back to the fishing village without any natural resources.

However, given the importance of the sea lanes and maritime trade, scant emphasis is given to the maritime industries and its workers by our leaders, our citizens and sometimes, even our sailors. Merchant ships, nowadays, are often much automated and crewed only by a minimal crew. Navigational safety and maritime security is probably the last topic you hear in the coffee shop. An example to prove the case would be , when was the last time you seen a movie, Hollywood or not, based in the maritime domain? Please don’t say “The Pirates of the Carribean.”

My point is that not many people in the current Age of Information realize how important the sea is to us and how uncertain that foundation is today, no matter the fact that much of our daily lives are dependent on it.

The United States as a Pacific power – Bratton, Patrick C.


US Aircraft Humanitarian

In his article, A/P Bratton aims to examines the basis of US power in the Asia-Pacific, looking at the historical as well as current context. In his paper, he postulates that, after Cold War, the US stands at a unique and advantegous position to gain and maintain influence in the region due to its seapower. This seapower is delivered in terms of the Pacific Command Fleet as wel as its bases in numerous countries in the region.

In terms of soft power, due to the alliances gained in the region during the Cold War, it has already established many linkages which it can leverage on. Besides alliances, US’s democratic and liberal culture also promotes trade, always a welcome benefit to the region. However, with trade, comes its own cuffs which the US exercises subtlety.

However, with the rise of China, US has to decide how to integrate this up and coming great power into its systems of San Fransico System. At the same time, US, being a global power has to balance its interests in the region with interests in other areas, such as the Middle East as well as its own coastal defense. In the face of the great US fleet, their potential adversaries used asymmetric tactics, aiming to deny the US fleet rather than facing it head on. At the same time, American domestic policies and ideals continue to threaten its alliance with other countries as the Cold War mentality no longer applies.

At the end of the day, the US seapower in the region is still evident and is multi-faceted, crossing commercial to institutional and cultural. However, it still has to face numerous issues if it wishes to pivot to Asia.