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New Maritime Awareness Project Kicks Off With South China Sea Discussion


CORRECTION: A previous version of this post had attributed comments made by Justin Nankivell with the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies on April 14, 2016 to James Kraska of the U.S. Naval War College. The post as been amended to reflect the change. 

With the United States and the Philippines now conducting joint transits of the South China Sea and conducting joint exercises on the home islands, the newly released Maritime Awareness Project took on an added dimension during its Thursday rollout focused on the region.

The initial kick-off took a look at the implications of the dispute between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal — now before an international arbitration panel—are very serious, not only for the two nations, but for the future concerning control of other regional choke points, a law professor at the Naval War College told attendees at a program hosted by National Bureau of Asian Research Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA introducing a new maritime project.

Justin Nankivell, with the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, speaking at the Washington, D.C. rollout, said, while the dispute is not black or white, it “is about a whole range of things,” including what a nation can do inside an Exclusive Economic Zone, from fisheries to exploiting natural resources to whether it is open to transit by sea and air.

Speaking for himself, Nankivell added the reason China is not attending the United Nations court’s hearing on the Spratly Islands is that “it does not have a good case.” There is “no upside for China going.”

Beijing has indicated that it does not believe it is bound by the panel’s decision, expected to be delivered soon.

Rommel Banlaoi, a member of the academic team for the Maritime Awareness Project interactive portal — from the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research—said one side effect of China’s resistance to participate in arbitration for his nation has been a willingness “to embrace the United States” across a broad range of military and security arrangements because of “our fear of a rising neighbor.”

He added he did not expect negotiations between China and Philippines over the Spratlys to begin anytime soon after a ruling.

Beijing is willing to negotiate territorial and other disputes and has done so in the past, Nong Hong, also on the experts’ panel (from the Institute for China-America Studies) but believes in this case it has historical and other precedents to claim control.

In introducing the project, retired U.S. Navy Adm. Dennis Blair, who also served as director of National Intelligence, said in his recent discussions with members of Chinese think-tanks that they believe the “9 Dash Line”—Beijing’s claim to its historic sovereignty over large portions of the South China Sea—means it controls all the islands within that swath of sea.

“That’s what they want.”

Chinese wide-ranging maritime claims “threatens international norms and peace,” said Richard Ellings of the National Bureau of Asian Research, one of the co-reators of the Maritime Awareness Project. The other partner is Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.

“Maritime disputes are becoming an increasingly common source of conflict,” said M. Taylor Fravel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and, like Blair, a leader of the project.

“The world’s key decision-makers need the best possible knowledge and strategic analysis. . . . The project [starting with the South and East China seas] will determine the facts in the maritime areas and explain their implications” to the countries directly involved and others,” Ellings said.

  • Danny Lewis

    The quickest way to get China to the table is economically. Put a tariff on all goods entering those countries from China. Sure, they will scream and shout and threaten their own sanctions, but those countries don’t have a billion plus mouths to feed either. If they want to play hardball, then we and the other countries involved, should return it to them twofold. Enough of this BS. Either we tame this beast now or forever wish that we had, when we had the opportunity to do so.

    • FedUpWithWelfareStates

      What we will eventually wish for, is that we hadn’t gotten involved with the SCS dispute in the first place…

      American memories are very short, say starting from 1993 up to today, we have forgotten exactly WHY we left that God Forsaken country in the first place.

      The Philippines is NOT either OUR friend, or a very good Ally at all, so we have to ask ourselves, “Why the sudden rush to get back into that ungrateful country?”

      The Philippines has absolutely refused to make the hard sacrifices to build up their military, & why should they in reality, when all they have to do is go crying to America, repeat MDT like a mantra, & the U.S. will eventually cave in to fight the Philippines battles for them…We are Suckers!

      The path has been laid out, at least until we elect a new president, but once again, I will state for the record that we are going about it ALL wrong.

      The Philippines is NOT a nation where military prowess is a virtue. Filipinos are Pirates, Bandits, Liars, Thieves, & basically B/S Artist…ALL traits that are well-suited to being a Guerrilla!

      So instead of wasting the millions of U.S. Tax Payer $$$ on trying to make their military look like ours, albeit a lot smaller, concentrate on the ONLY martial accomplishment that the Filipinos have ever had, which is as Guerrillas during WWII?


      1. Establish a 3-week (21-training days) “RECONDO” School, at Fort Magsaysay, located in Palayan, Nueva Ecija.
      2. Establish a “Guerrilla Militia Headquarters,” adjacent to the RECONDO School.
      3. Establish “Guerrilla Militia Battalions,” in each province.
      4. Continuously run RECONDO classes year-round, training approximately 144 prospective Guerrillas (12-twelve man/woman teams) from the same province, per class.
      5. The Guerrilla’s primary weapon will be a 12 gauge single-barrel shotgun (New England Tracker II Slug Shotgun SB1014, $169.66 w/Scavenger Kit – 12 Gauge.
      6. Since this will be a Guerrilla Militia Battalion, there will be NO uniforms, or unit type indicators. Besides the weapons, all Guerrilla issued items will be sourced from inside of the Philippines.
      7. Battalion assemblies, payment, equipment stocks/issue, will be the responsibility of the Provincial Governor. Tactical deployment for training & during the time of war will fall under the AFP Special Forces Teams, as directed by the Militia Headquarters.
      8. Specialized training, equipment & missions will depend upon province location.
      9. The eventual size of the “Guerrilla Militia Battalions,” for each province, will be determined by the Governor, but will never fall below 1,200 guerrillas.

      Anyway, it is a suggestion as to how the Philippines might use what its current assets/strengths are to create its very own Guerrilla force, which worked so well during WWII, with very limited outside assistance.

      • Danny Lewis

        All what you say is true. The problem is it is well past time for China to be called on what they are attempting to do. Fortunately or unfortunately we are still the biggest kid on the block, and are the only ones capable of putting a stop to the aggressive posturing of the Chinese. This problem could have been nipped in the bud had we a President that understood what is happening and done what was necessary to put a stop to it. We do not. The Chinese like other entities around the world have and will continue to take advantage of this President until January 2017. Until he is relieved of command, these incursions will continue. Hopefully the next President will have the gumption to correct the mistakes made by Obama.

        • Banlas

          “The only ones capable of putting a stop…”

          Dogface. Hope another kick will send this evil kid out from Asia forever. The lessons experienced from Vietnam and Korean Wars have been forgotten for this rotten dog, I guess.

  • la

    I think the Philippine needs to develop scarlborough shoal since it firmly belongs to the Philippine clearly inside 200 mile EEZ and its soo close to Manila

  • la

    The Shoal is the red line …you just dont go around and invade another country and exspect to get away with it. If this shoal is taken.. than all the “artificial islands” will be made unservicable and no good to anyone for a very very long time.. just one small tactical nuke on each area of sand in the ocean and its done cooked for a long long time..