Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

Building cooperation for managing the South China Sea without strategic trust

By Sam Bateman

The ruling from the arbitral tribunal dealing with the case between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea provides opportunities for fresh approaches to building cooperation for managing the sea and activities within it. This cooperation is both a necessity and an obligation of the countries bordering the sea. However, obstacles remain, particularly the lack of trust between the various stakeholders in the sea and the way in which important areas for cooperation, such as fisheries management, environmental protection and marine scientific research, have been politicised to the extent that even cooperation in these areas cannot proceed without greater strategic trust. The objective of this paper is to put forward a set of policy implications from the ruling that might overcome these obstacles and allow the necessary cooperation to proceed despite the lack of strategic trust.

(Photo: U.S. Navy photographer by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate on wikimedia commons)

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