Commander Jonathan G. Odom, a military professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, has a new OpEd published by The Diplomat, entitled “Merely Avoiding Conflict in the South China Sea Is Not Good Enough.”

In this editorial, Commander Odom considers a number of ideas about the South China Sea disputes, and the importance of managing and resolving those disputes through an approach that is both practical and rules-based.  First, maintaining regional peace and stability in the region includes not only reducing the risk of conventional armed conflict between the nations involved, but also reducing the risks of confrontation, escalation, misunderstanding and unplanned skirmishes at sea, which could arise from the use of unconventional forces by some claimants, such as China’s use of its maritime militia.  Second, the legitimate ways to resolve these disputes by peaceful means include not only negotiations, but also rules-based, third-party mechanisms of international courts, tribunals, and arbitration.  Third, to find rules-based options that could resolve the disputes, the claimants must abandon policy positions that make any such options impossible, such as China’s nine-dashed line.  Fourth, nations must apply rule-sets of international law consistently and quote the rules of international law in a manner consistent with the fundamental rules of treaty interpretation.  Fifth, nations need to ensure the existing, rules-based standards of maritime safety are followed by all of their vessels, including not only their navy and coast guard ships, but also their fishing boats.

Odom concludes:  “One thing we know for certain: the territorial and maritime disputes of the Asia-Pacific region will not be resolved anytime soon. To be sure, the measures that nations utilize to manage these disputes in the near term and resolve them eventually must be practical. But they must also conform to the rule sets that are the foundation of the established international order.”

Jonathan G. Odom is a Military Professor at the U.S. Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Previously, he served as the Oceans Policy Advisor in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the U.S. Department of Defense or any of its components.

Read the full editorial online at:


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