Managing Indo-Pacific Crises

Reducing regional tensions becomes focus.

Is there a multilateral mechanism that could manage air and maritime encounters in a tense region?

By Koh Swee Lean Collin and Darshana M. Baruah

Tensions in Asia are rising over unresolved territorial disputes and sovereignty issues. In contrast to the immediate post-Cold War period, recent tensions are characterized by the evident proclivity of some, if not all, parties towards the threat or use of limited force. As a much preferred tool of statecraft, maritime platforms tend to be the archetypical instrument for this sort of diplomacy.

The spike in maritime encounters in recent years have largely involved coastguard-type forces in disputed waters of the East and South China Seas. More recently, though, regular naval ships have begun to appear on the scene. Not only do heavily armed warships cast an ominous shadow over the coastguard vessels operating on the frontlines, at times they become involved, for instance by directing fire control radar at opposing military assets in the vicinity. Moreover, these numerous encounters between rival maritime patrols in the regional flashpoints are now being augmented by aerial encounters involving highly capable fighter jets and sophisticated surveillance assets.

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