China's South China Sea Disaster

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Until the past five years, the Philippines and Vietnam had minimal strategic ties other than working together, through ASEAN initiatives, on a range of nontraditional security issues. The two countries had very different styles of leadership—the Philippines is a vibrant democracy with one of the freest media markets in the world, while Vietnam remains run by a highly opaque Party—and Hanoi remained wary of diverging from its strategy of hedging close ties with China with increasingly close relations with the United States. By contrast, the Philippines, despite a very mixed historical relationship with the United States, was (and is) a U.S. treaty ally and one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Vietnam and the Philippines did not hold joint military exercises, rarely had high-level bilateral interactions between senior political and military leaders, and also had only modest two-way trade.

But since 2010, as China’s posture in the South China Sea has become increasingly assertive, and Vietnam and the Philippines have pushed back harder against Beijing than any other Southeast Asian nations, the two ASEAN countries have moved much closer together. At first, the closeness was informal—Philippine and Vietnamese sailors mingling on disputed rocks in the South China Sea to drink beers and play sports, top leaders from the two countries holding unannounced bilateral meetings on the sidelines of ASEAN meetings to discuss possible joint responses to Chinese actions like dredging and reported Chinese building of what appears to be a military-use airstrip on an atoll in the Spratly Islands.

Now, Hanoi and Manila appear willing to formalize their cooperation, which should be a worrying thought for Beijing, since this cooperation signals that Southeast Asian nations are now becoming more unified in their opposition to Beijing’s South China Sea policies. Manila and Hanoi will formalize a strategic partnership in the coming weeks, according to Philippine media. The strategic partnership likely will include a commitment to work together to resolve maritime disputes in the South China Sea, a commitment to holding joint naval exercises, and an agreement to conduct joint scientific studies in the South China Sea—studies that could potentially relate to hydrocarbons or fisheries, the Sea’s two most valuable resources.

The strategic partnership still needs to be signed, and its details could still change. But just the fact that Hanoi and Manila are likely to begin holding joint military exercises, a vast shift from their lukewarm bilateral relations in the 2000s, should demonstrate to Beijing that its South China Sea policy is backfiring badly.

This piece was first posted on CFR's Blog Asia Unbound here.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Saberwyn/CC by-sa 3.0.

TopicsSouth China Sea RegionsAsia

U.S. Navy May Turn Every Ship into an Aircraft Carrier

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The U.S. Navy is seeking to transform every ship into mini aircraft carriers.

Last month the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the start of the second phase of its Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program. TERN, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), aims to create a system that would enable small ships to operate both intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and combat drones.

“The goal of Tern is to give forward-deployed small ships the ability to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems (UAS),” DARPA said in a press release announcing Phase 2 of the program. “These systems could provide long-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other capabilities over greater distances and time periods than is possible with current assets.”

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Not only would Tern enhance the U.S. Navy’s strike capabilities, but it could also greatly reduce costs by decreasing the U.S. military’s reliance on expensive land-based air strips. “A capacity to launch and retrieve aircraft on small ships would reduce the need for ground-based airstrips, which require significant dedicated infrastructure and resources.” Land-based airstrips are also more vulnerable to enemy missiles, and frequently create tension​ with local populations.

Tern also potentially help reduce the U.S. Navy’s reliance on aircraft carriers. This is crucial as many fear that large aircraft carriers are growing obsolete amidst the proliferation of long-range precision-strike missiles to U.S. adversaries like China and Iran. Beijing, in particular, poses a vexing challenge to the U.S. Navy as missiles like the DF-21D— frequently dubbed the “carrier killer”— appear to be aimed at sinking America’s aircraft carriers.

An anti-ship ballistic missile, the DF-21D is reportedly able to “carry a warhead big enough to inflict significant damage on a large vessel, providing the Chinese the capability of destroying a U.S. supercarrier in one strike.”

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Once operational—both the missile and its kill chain—it will reportedly be able to strike a moving supercarrier at ranges of nearly 1,500 kilometers. Given the immense cost of America’s ten aircraft carriers, as well as the manpower required to operate them, the DF-21D will essentially force America to keep its carriers out of range from the Chinese mainland and many potential hot spots in the region.

Tern would help the United States overcome this issue by greatly increasing the number of targets China or another U.S. adversary would have to strike in order to destroy America’s strike capabilities. Indeed, according to The Motley Fool, the system that comes out of the Tern program could “permit MALE-sized drones to operate off ships as small as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer—or even a smaller Independence—or Freedom-class frigate.” In other words, nearly every U.S. naval surface ship could become a mini aircraft carrier, especially as the U.S. Navy is moving completely away from manned aircraft after the F-35.

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Nor are surface ships the only mini aircraft carriers the U.S. Navy is seeking to develop to compensate for the growing missile threat. Back in 2013, the navy first “demonstrated the launch of an all-electric, fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) from a submerged submarine.” For the time being, however, these drones are strictly for IRS purposes.

DARPA launched the Tern program back in 2013. In May of the following year, it signed a memorandum of understanding with ONR to make it a joint program.

According to DARPA:

The program has three planned phases. The first two phases focus on preliminary design and risk reduction for the Tern system. In Phase 3, a performer would be selected to build a full-scale demonstrator Tern system for ground-based testing, culminating in an at-sea demonstration of launch and recovery.

AeroVironment and Northrop Grumman were the two contractors selected for the second phase of the program. Dan Patt, DARPA's program manager for Tern, said that:

Our Phase 2 performers are each designing a new unmanned air system intended to enable two  previously unavailable capabilities: one, the ability for a UAS to take off and land from very confined spaces in elevated sea states and two, the ability for such a UAS to transition to efficient long-duration cruise missions.

Zachary Keck is managing editor of The National Interest. He can reached on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Image: Flickr/U.S. Pacific Fleet

TopicsSecurity RegionsAmericas

Breaking Down a Disaster: The Gallipoli Nightmare

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The strategic origins of the Gallipoli operation are to be found in the determination of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to use the navy decisively to influence the war on land, in the willingness of the British War Council and many of its advisors to believe that sea power could achieve this end, and in an underestimation by all concerned on the determination with which the enemy (Turkey) would defend its homeland.

Churchill had taken up his post in 1911 to ensure that a reluctant navy complied with the plans of the army to escort an expeditionary force to France in the event of war. By September 1914 this feat had been accomplished (without the loss of a single soldier).

Naval units were then engaged in sweeping up small squadrons of German ships in distant seas, ensuring that vital supplies carried in unarmed merchant ships arrived safely in Britain and in maintaining offensive patrols in the North Sea to keep watch on the German fleet.

None of this proved very congenial to Churchill. His restless mind had been devising a series of more offensive operations for his ships since the war’s outbreak. Although his schemes were many and various they had one factor in common: they sought not just to defeat the German fleet but to use British naval power to shorten the duration of the land war.

By early 1915 the war was entering an indecisive phase. The German assault in the west had been stymied at the Marne; the Russian armies had suffered grievously at Tannenburg and the Masaurian Lakes but were still in the field; French operations against Germany, Austrian operations against Serbia and Turkish operations against Egypt had collapsed almost at inception.

And these setbacks to the armed forces of the major powers had been accompanied by some ominous developments. Small groups of soldiers in rudimentary defenses and armed only with repeating rifles had proved capable of stopping attacks by masses of infantrymen.

The appearance of trenches and a few machine guns reduced even further the chances of advancing troops. Stalemate started to enter the vocabularies of the general staff.

Politicians and strategists on all sides greeted this spectacle of war without end with alarm. On the British side three men brought forth new strategic conceptions which were designed to surmount the problem. If there was no way through the Western Front they reasoned, there must be a way around.

First in the field was Lloyd George. He considered that Germany’s allies should be attacked—Austria-Hungary by a force consisting of the Balkan states led by Britain and France landing on the Dalmatian coast and advancing on Vienna. In addition a landing should be made on the Syrian coast to cut off the Turkish Army in the vicinity of the Suez Canal, bringing Germany down by a process of ‘ knocking the props under her’.

Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice Hankey, an ex-marine and secretary of the War Council had also conjured up an alliance of Balkan states, including Greece and Bulgaria. He thought that with these states on board it might be possible ‘to weave a web round Turkey which shall end her career as a European Power’. If Roumania and Russia could be enticed into the coalition "the occupation of Constantinople, the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus" could be accomplished. Thus communications would be restored with Russia via the Black Sea. Three British army corps combined with the Balkan and Russian forces should be sufficient to achieve these ends.

The third person to dabble in grand strategy was Lord Fisher, First Sea Lord at the Admiralty and Churchill’s chief naval adviser. He advocated a gigantic war against Turkey involving a coalition of Balkan states, a Greek army landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula and the navy forcing the Dardanelles with squadrons of obsolete battleships appearing off Constantinople and compelling the surrender of the pro-German government.

At the same time that Churchill was being bombarded by "Turkey" memoranda from various quarters, other events were directing his thoughts towards the Dardanelles. On January 1 Britain’s ambassador in Russia had telegraphed to the Foreign Office that Grand Duke Nicholas had informed him that Russian forces were being hard pressed by the Turks in the Caucasus and had asked if "it would be possible for Lord Kitchener to arrange for a demonstration of some kind against the Turk elsewhere, either naval or military [to] ease the position of Russia."

Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, asked Churchill for his opinion, making the point that "we have no troops to land anywhere" and enquiring whether a naval "demonstration" at the Dardanelles might be the most effective way of preventing more Turkish troops being sent east.

Following a meeting of the Admiralty War Group on 3 January a telegram sent was by Churchill to Admiral Sackville Carden, commanding the squadron off the Dardanelles. It said:

Do you consider the forcing of the Dardanelles by ships alone a practicable operation. It is assumed older Battleships fitted with minebumpers would be used preceded by Colliers or other merchant craft as bumpers and sweepers.

Importance of results would justify severe losses

Let me know your views.

On January 8 Carden’s plan for forcing the Dardanelles arrived. In truth it was not so much a plan as a list of the order in which the Dardanelles defenses would be attacked—starting with the outer forts and working towards the series of forts at the Narrows.

Nevertheless, at last Churchill had a plan which he placed before the War Council on  January 13. He emphasized that the guns of the Fleet were more modern than those in the Turkish forts and outranged them. What the Fleet would do when it cleared the Narrows was left rather vague. All Churchill had to say on this aspect was that "it would proceed up to Constantinople and destroy the ‘Goeben’."

Lloyd George and Kitchener thought the plan worth trying, Kitchener making the additional point that "we could leave off the bombardment if it did not prove effective."

A group of old battleships was to attempt to blast their way through the Dardanelles to Constantinople. If operations in the Straits prospered, well and good: if they did not all seemed to agree that the ships could sail away.

The conclusion of the War Council therefore was unanimous that the Admiralty should also prepare for a naval expedition to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula, with Constantinople as its objective. Churchill immediately ordered his admirals to give effect to Carden’s requests.

During the next few weeks a force of a dozen or so old battleships (including some provided by France) and two new ones were gathered off the entrance to the Dardanelles. After an action that lasted from February 19 to March 18, the naval attack was broken off.

It was a complete failure. Not for the first time during the First World War a strategic concept had come unstuck because the tactics required for its successful implementation were beyond the abilities of the force employed. The idea was that the ships would destroy the Turkish forces by bombarding them at a range outside the guns of the forts, but it was soon found that from these ranges the chances of hitting the guns of the forts were negligible.

Any attempt to close the range was hampered by the minefields laid before the war and enhanced while the bombardment was underway. Similarly attempts to sweep the minefields were hampered by the batteries of howitzers. When these batteries were attacked by the fleet it was found that the shallow trajectory of the ships’ guns meant that most of the Turkish guns sheltered behind hills or in low lying ground were safe from naval fire.

Meanwhile pressure was building to send troops to the Dardanelles. Hankey had informed Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, that Churchill’s opinion that a "ships alone" operation might still succeed was not to be trusted. Asquith was much influenced by Hankey and agreed that a "fairly strong military force" should be assembled to assist the fleet. Above all Fisher had undergone a change of heart. He informed Churchill: "Not a grain of wheat will come from the Black Sea unless there is military occupation of the Dardanelles!"

Eventually, this pressure of opinion had an effect on Churchill. By mid-February he was not only arguing that troops should be sent but that at least one division should consist of regular soldiers (the 29 Division). At a War Council Meeting he told Kitchener who understandably was having trouble grasping why the navy suddenly required the presence of troops:

It would be a great disappointment to the Admiralty if the 29th Division was not sent out. The attack on the Dardanelles was a very heavy naval undertaking. It was difficult to overrate the military advantages which success would bring … In his opinion, it would be a thrifty disposition on our part to have 50,000 men in this region … He was sending out ten trained battalions of the Naval Division. Neither these, however, nor the Australians and New Zealanders could be called first-rate troops at present, and they required a stiffening of regulars … We should never forgive ourselves if this promising operation failed owing to insufficient military force at the critical moment.

Although on this occasion Kitchener resisted Churchill’s call for troops, gradually momentum for their employment at Gallipoli increased. Therefore when the naval attack finally collapsed in ignominious defeat on  March 18, there was virtually no discussion. Kitchener decreed that there would be a combined operation and such was the consensus that the War Council was not summoned to discuss its merits.

The combined operation was in fact no more sensible than the naval attack and a lot more dangerous. Britain could only raise about 75,000 troops to land in the first phase of an attack on Gallipoli. Yet the Turks had no less than 500,000.

It is true that Turkey was hardly a first-rate power. But the Turkish army was equipped with those two great killers of infantry—machine guns and artillery which were the determinants of victory in all the battles of the First World War. And on the Gallipoli peninsula the Turks would have the advantage of occupying all the high ground.

In short what was likely to happen was that the smaller Allied force would fight the Turkish Army in relays because it would be much faster for the Turks to rotate their forces in and out of the battle area than could a force with bases far from the theater of war.

Moreover, in one respect the combined operation was a much worse scenario for the Allies than the naval attack. After a naval defeat (as everyone said at the time) the ships could always sail away. Once there were "boots on the ground" it would be more difficult to withdraw if things went awry. There would be calls for additional forces for that one final push that would decide the campaign and cries of lost prestige if the operation was not seen through to a successful conclusion.

And one final fact must be noted. Both plans were based on the assumption that the defeat of Turkey would somehow have a cosmic influence on the war as a whole. This was far from the case. The defeat of Turkey would have meant the defeat of Turkey. The great engine of the war was the German army and its position in France and Flanders would be hardly imperiled by what happened far away in southeastern Europe.

Until the German army in the west was beaten the war would continue. In the First World War there was no way around. Strategists would have been better employed in devoting their attention to the tactics that would allow victory to be achieved on the only front that mattered—the Western Front.

This is an edited version of an ASPI Strategic Insight, ‘The Strategy behind Gallipoli: strategic decision-making in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli’, published April 2005 and on ASPI’s website here


A Big Deal: China Reveals Its South China Sea Strategy

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Growing international criticism of China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea and the publication of detailed images of China’s dredging and construction activities prompted the Chinese government to explain in greater detail than ever before the purpose of these activities. In response to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s charge that China has “intensified the militarization in the islands and reefs in the South China Sea and escalated regional tension,” and the release of a series of satellite photos by CSIS of recent dredging and construction activities on Mischief Reef, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying issued a lengthy statement on April 9. In addition to repeating prior positions that China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands and adjacent waters, and that China’s construction is “fair, reasonable, and lawful,” Hua stated that China’s activities aremainly for civilian purposes, but also are intended to serve “necessary military defense requirements.”

That is the first time that the Chinese government has officially acknowledged that its land reclamation activity is intended at least in part for military purposes. On September 9, 2014, when Hua Chunying was asked explicitly whether China’s large-scale reclamation work was intended for commercial or military use, she responded “As far as I know, the construction work China is undertaking on relevant islands is mainly for the purpose of improving the working and living conditions of people stationed on these islands.” On November 24, Hua made the same claim, adding that by improving the conditions for the island-stationed personnel, they can better fulfill their international obligations and responsibilities in search and rescue.

In the April 9 statement, in addition to acknowledging that China plans to use the outposts for unstated military missions, Hua also provided greater detail about the civilian purposes that the islands will serve. She maintained that China seeks to improve relevant functions the islands and reefs provide, to better safeguard national territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, to better meet China’s international responsibilities and obligations in maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine scientific research, weather observation, environmental protection, navigation safety, fishery production services, and other areas.

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Hua added that the civilian facilities would provide services to China and its neighboring countries, as well as international vessels sailing in the South China Sea.

In other words, the Chinese are now attempting to assuage concerns about their artificial island building by claiming that these activities are aimed at providing public goods. Chinese researchers are also making this argument. For example, PLA Navy Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo wrote in an article published by China News Agency on March 8 that large scale radar stations are needed in the South China Sea for communication and monitoring. Citing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Yin Zhuo argued for enhanced search and rescue capabilities to respond to possible sea and air accidents. China, he said, has “undisputed responsibility” for maritime search and rescue in the South China Sea based on an International Maritime Organization (IMO) determination in 1985 that “China and Chinese Hong Kong are responsible for the region north of 10 degrees north latitude and west of 124 degrees east longitude.”

Likely in response to accusations by the Philippines that China’s dredging is causing catastrophic damage to the coral reefs, Hua insisted that China had undertaken “scientific assessments and rigorous tests” to ensure that “the ecology of the South China Sea will not be damaged.” That China’s foreign ministry spokesman felt compelled to make this statement suggests that Beijing is at least somewhat concerned that it not be seen as harming the environment. This may be a useful pressure point for the international community going forward. ASEAN might consider asking the Chinese to share their environmental impact studies.

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China’s transparency, albeit limited, about its intentions should be welcome and be used as an opportunity to press for additional information as well as reassurance.  China should be urged to match the information it has provided on the potential civilian purposes of its land reclamation activities with similar details about the military functions its garrisons will serve. CSIS’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative has confirmed that China is building a 10,000 ft. runway on Fiery Cross Reef that could enable China to monitor and potentially control the airspace over the South China Sea, which would provide greater capability to exert sea control. China might even plan to declare an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) similar to the ADIZ it established in November 2013 in the East China Sea.

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Concerned nations should also demand that the Chinese pledge that they will refrain from using these new outposts for destabilizing and coercive conduct. This should include promises not to interfere with freedom of navigation and to forego establishing an ADIZ over disputed maritime areas. To make such commitments palatable to Beijing, they could be included in a Code of Conduct that not only China, but also ASEAN members, agree to. Creating such a legally binding Code is increasingly urgent.

This piece first appeared in on the CSIS Project website Asia Maritime Transparency Project here

TopicsSouth China Sea RegionsAsia-Pacific

The Real South China Sea Crisis: An Environmental Time Bomb

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China’s accelerated construction activities in the South China Sea have understandably alarmed countries across the region and beyond. In particular, Southeast Asian claimant states such as Vietnam and the Philippines are deeply worried about the prospects of an irreversible Chinese consolidation of its sweeping maritime claims, more expansive Chinese paramilitary patrols in the area, and, perhaps most alarmingly, the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) across the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the U.S. seems to be primarily concerned with how China’s ambitious and sophisticated construction activities could pose a threat to its national interest in term of freedom of navigation and overflight in the area.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also been scrambling for an appropriate and timely response, more vigorously discussing the possibility of joint patrols in the contested waters to prevent further escalation in the disputes. An often neglected aspect of the issue, however, is the ecological implications of ongoing construction activities as well as illegal, underreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing across the South China Sea. Continued failure to address the environmental time bomb in the area could lead to a major economic disaster for all claimant countries, including China.

Geo-Engineering Wonders

In fairness, China is a relative late-comer in the ongoing construction game across the South China Sea. Back in the late-20th century, Southeast Asian claimant states such as the Philippines and Northeast Asian claimant states such as Taiwan were already able to establish relatively advanced structures, including airstrips, on the Thitu and Itu Aba islands, respectively. In the Spratly chain of islands, China occupies seven features (e.g., rocks, atolls, and reefs), behind Vietnam (21) and the Philippines (8).

Nonetheless, Hanoi and Manila occupy features that fall well within their 200-nautical-miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf. The same cannot be said about China, the southernmost province (Hainan) of which is located considerably farther. The more important difference, however, is the scale, speed, and sophistication of China’s construction activities across the Spratly chain of islands. While the Philippines and Taiwan have been building advanced structures on actual islands — that is to say, naturally-formed features that can support human habitation — China instead is artificially transforming rudimentary features (e.g., low-tide elevations, reefs, rocks, atolls, etc.) into de facto islands.

The artificial and permanent alteration of the nature of a contested feature is not admissible before international law, but it allows China to achieve de facto – rather than de jure – sovereignty over contested features. After all, China doesn’t even recognize the jurisdiction of any third party, under the aegis of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), when it comes to its sovereignty claims in adjacent waters. By all accounts, China is winning the scramble in the South China Sea. The accelerated pace of China’s construction activities may be linked to at least two factors.

First, China may hope to tighten its grip over contested features ahead of the expected conclusion of Manila’s legal arbitration against Beijing at The Hague sometime in 2016; and second, China may hope to deepen its strategic depth in the area before a more hawkish leadership replaces the Obama administration.

What China is doing in the South China Sea is nothing short of geo-engineering on steroids. It clearly presents both military and ecological threats to the region and beyond. In strategic terms, construction of advanced facilities allows China to establish military garrisons in the middle of the contested area, with Fiery Cross expected to serve as a command-and-control center for Beijing’s military and para-military activities across the South China Sea. Soon, China may be able to place advanced missile-defense systems, coordinate more sophisticated marine and air patrols in the area, and progressively prevent other neighboring countries from resupplying their personnel on features they already control.

The Environmental Conundrum

The other major concern is the potential ecological damage caused by the ongoing scramble in the South China Sea. The South China Sea is a global leader in terms of biodiversity, thanks to its warm waters and tropical weather. China maintains that its construction activities are in line with its “lawful”, “reasonable”, “justified”, and “inherent and indisputable sovereignty” in the area. It recently mentioned “environmental protection” and “fishery production service” as one of the core objectives of the ongoing construction activities.

Other claimant states such as the Philippines, however, argue that China’s activities have damaged up to 300 acres of coral reefs, leading to “irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance” and costing neighboring states up to $100 million annually due to the negative impact on coral reefs, which are breeding grounds for high-value fisheries. Philippines’ coral reefs have also been damaged by American (USS Guardian) and Chinese vessels in recent years. By some estimates, 70% of coral reefs in the South China Sea have already been adversely affected by a combination of pollution, unsound fishing practices, mechanical accidents, and climate change.

Fisheries resources have been severely undermined due to over-exploitation and large-scale illegal fishing. In recent years, the Philippines has repeatedly apprehended Chinese andVietnamese fishermen for poaching endangered species such as sea turtles within its EEZ. Desperate to stem illegal fishing by foreign vessels within its waters, Indonesia has resorted to a more aggressive ‘sink the vessels’ policy. With China increasingly relying on itsfishermen-cum-militia armada to consolidate its claims in the South China Sea, illegal, underreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing will most likely intensify.

From the Northern Pacific, North Sea, and the Baltic to the Mediterranean and even the Yellow Sea, there have been numerous and relatively advanced efforts at establishing fisheries management and related environmental-protection regimes. As signatories to the UNCLOS and Convention on Biological Diversity, South China Sea claimant states should begin to seriously discuss necessary measures to address the brewing environmental crisis, which will affect the livelihood of tens of millions of people in the area with unimaginable socio-political and economic repercussions. This may after all be the biggest challenge in the South China Sea.

This piece first appeared in on the CSIS Project website Asia Maritime Transparency Project here

Image: U.S. Navy Flickr. 

TopicsSouth China Sea RegionsAsia-Pacific