How a “Rules- Based Approach” Could Improve the South China Sea Situation
Jonathan G. Odom
Perspectives on the South China Sea: A Report of the CSIS Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies (09/2014)
Many nations have interests in the South China Sea. Among these national interests are the freedom of navigation, a respect for international law, the security and stability of the region, and unimpeded commerce and economic development.2 History has taught us that these interests cannot be taken for granted and that peace and stability are not a foregone conclusion. Without the established international legal order and the security efforts of the United States and other nations since World War II, the past 60- plus years of stability and amazing prosperity in East Asia could not have happened. Unfortunately, the unresolved disputes in the waters of East Asia among the nations bordering the South China Sea put the interests of those nations and other nations at risk. Looking ahead, the international community must be both deliberate and vigilant in preserving these interests. Much has been said about the importance of a “rules- based approach” to resolving these international disputes and reducing the risks that arise from them.3 Truth be told, there is not a single rule of international law or international norm that will solve all of these problems or mitigate all of these risks. Instead there is a patchwork of rules and norms that could help address different aspects of the matter. This paper will highlight some of the specifi c ways a rules- based approach could improve the South China Sea situation.
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