Individuals who take an interest in international law have probably been watching the situation in the South China Sea very closely. Several member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have stated that they want to find a quick resolution for a single Code of Conduct that regulates the waterway. Numerous top legal thinkers have been weighing in on what sorts of provisions they feel such a code should make.
Good Relations with China
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stated that he hopes such a document will lead to better relations with China, though Philippine President Benigno Aquino has expressed concerns over recent land reclamation projects that China has been funding in the area. Disputes have started to erupt over claims China has made over various waterways.
Legal experts have discussed several ways to resolve these problems. Those who follow Shahram Shirkhani on Twitter, for instance, may have seen some recent suggestions that China will soon seek a more peaceful resolution because of fears of potentially cutting ties with Southeast Asian countries that China relies on for trade.
International Law Considerations
Some of China’s claims involve artificial islands that have been produced as a result of these land reclamation projects. Chinese authorities have used these to illustrate what they feel is a legitimate claim to the area. Some legal experts feel that these islands might not be sufficient to exercise such claims because the islands were only recently corrected, and natural geological processes didn’t form them.
Joint Task Force
Certain individuals feel that a joint naval task force could help to bring stability to the region. ASEAN authorities and representatives of the United States Navy have both stated that they feel that some sort of joint law enforcement operation could help to resolve some of these disputes, especially considering that piracy and other illicit activity has served to aggravate many existing disputes.
How such a task force could be developed is another question entirely. It would be difficult to create a force that’s pleasing to every nation, and there’s still some question over whether or not international law will trump various regional regulations.
The Question of Trade
The countries that make up ASEAN are expected to see huge growth in terms of combined gross domestic product. Some analysts have estimated that this figure will rise to $4 trillion in the next five years. This kind of unprecedented growth will put additional pressures on those working to stop piracy.
They might also force those involved with land and waterway disputes to come to the table. Businesses and private individuals won’t want to deal with any international politics that interrupt trade.