What’s Driving Instability in the South China Sea?
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What’s Driving Instability in the South China Sea?



28 September 2023

This week, in honor of World Maritime Day, we highlight papers by Bec Strating, Collin Koh, and Kyoko Hatakeyama that were published as a part of our project on Preventing Dangerous Maritime Incidents and Unintended Escalation in the Asia-Pacific. In addition, we welcome new members to our senior network.

We also share the latest activities from our network, including Melissa Parke‘s UN statement for ICAN, analysis on the Fukushima wastewater release, and an upcoming event on the core issues shaping China’s power. 

New Members Join APLN

APLN warmly welcomes two new members to our senior network:

  • Prof. Rajaram Panda, Former Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library
  • Hon. Kenneth Kedi, Speaker of the Legislature of the Marshall Islands

See all members

Maritime Incidents and Escalation in the Asia-Pacific

In the Asia-Pacific, the maritime domain seems to be rife with disputes, incidents, and clashes. The region is fraught with territorial disagreements, grey zone activity, and other stressors that create a dangerous environment in which an accidental clash may spiral and escalate into conflict.

In the last several months, APLN has published three scoping papers that identify what factors drive instability in the Asia-Pacific maritime space and how to craft crisis reduction mechanisms and confidence and security building measures (CSBMs) to address them.

Read about the project

Kyoko Hatakeyama considers the increasingly tense Sino-Japanese relationship in the East China Sea and details how confidence building measures (CBMs) can lower the risk of large-scale military conflict and promote cooperation between the two Asian nations, with a focus on the existing China-Japan CBM, the 2018 Maritime and Air Communication Mechanism.

Collin Koh discussed how confidence and security building measures, like codes of conduct, can help encourage good behaviour in the Southeast Asian maritime domain. He analysed the effectiveness of three major CSBMs in the region: the Guidelines for Air Military Encounters (GAME), the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (CoC), and the Code on Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

Rebecca (Bec) Strating reviews and analyses incidents involving military and non-military vessels in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the South and East China Seas. Using news reports from 2010 until 2022, the report identifies 20 military-to-military incidents and 59 incidents involving non-military vessels.

APLN has over 150 members from 22 countries in the Asia-Pacific.
Each week we feature their latest contributions
to global and regional security debates.

See all member activities







ICAN statement to the UN event on the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons 2023

Melissa Parke, the new Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, delivered the ICAN statement at the high-level plenary meeting commemorating the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on September 26th, 2023.

Why Japan Should Stop Its Fukushima Nuclear Wastewater Ocean Release

Tatsujiro Suzuki, Vice Director and Professor of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University, analyses why Japan should stop its Fukushima nuclear wastewater ocean release. He offers recommendations that could help restore public trust in TEPCO’s and the Japanese government’s plan for treating water at Fukushima.

Time to Hold Nuclear States to Their Promise

Marianne Hanson, ICAN Australia Co-Chair, co-wrote an article with Margaret Beavis, emphasizing the importance of disarmament and trust-building in the context of global security while urging nuclear-armed states to fulfill their commitment to nuclear disarmament.

North Korean Talks Collapsed but Didn’t Fail

Choi Jong Kun, Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Studies at Yonsei University, published an excerpt from his book ‘Power of Peace: A Record of the Moon Jae-in Government’s Courage in the Peace Process’ in Foreign Policy.

China’s Power: Up for Debate 2023

Tong Zhao, Senior Fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will participate in CSIS’ eighth annual conference on Thursday, October 5th, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm EDT, where he will engage in debates with other leading experts on the core issues shaping China’s power. 

Delhi Need Not Choose

Shyam Saran, former Indian Foreign Secretary, writes for the Indian Express, arguing that an expanded BRICS will not harm India’s interests. Instead, India must engage with all – BRICS, SCO, Quad, and G7.

How Small States Navigate U.S.-China Rivalry: The Case of Cambodia

Charadine Pich, Deputy Executive Director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), co-wrote an article with Chhengpor Aun, arguing that Cambodia is preserving its strategic autonomy through ‘smart and flexible diplomacy’ amid major power competition.

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