UAVs in the South China Sea

Cost effective maritime surveillance?

Weapons of the weak: UAVs in the South China Sea

By Liang Nah

An often quoted statement by ancient Greek historian Thucydides in his principal work, History of the Peloponnesian War, is that“the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”. When this dictum is applied to the South China Sea, we see that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) uses its economic prosperity-fueled military strength to reinforce its influence within its self-proclaimed “nine-dotted line”, regardless of the fact that much of what the PRC claims as its maritime territory, firmly lies within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of littoral states like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

But despite the apparent wisdom of Thucydides’s saying and the applicability of realist strategic realities in Asia, perhaps a more practical version of this aphorism would be, “the strong do what they wish and the weak resist as best they can”. Inasmuch as Beijing resolutely flexes the PRC’s naval muscle in the South China Sea, and even builds lighthouses on its claimed islands to bolster sovereignty claims, the ASEAN littoral Spratly Islands claimants need not resign themselves to Chinese dominance, but can and should adopt various “weapons of the weak” to challenge the PRC’s bid for maritime hegemony and reclaim influence over their respective EEZs. Towards this end, even cash-strapped nations like the Philippines, Vietnam and to a lesser extent Malaysia, can employ innovative and yet affordable technologies as part of a sovereignty preserving sea denial and reclamation strategy, designed to resist Chinese encroachment. One such promising technological tool is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drone.

To continue reading, please click here.


Previous Article
Next Article