De-escalation of the Spratly dispute in Sino-Southeast Asian relations
Date of Issue2007
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
The paper argues that the Spratly dispute has shown signs of de-escalation in recent years. This has occurred however in the absence of significant changes in material terms and in the circumstances pertaining to the dispute as well as in the absence of major progress in conflict management and resolution. The paper seeks therefore to understand what explains the de-escalation process. It claims that it derives from a combination of wider domestic and regional developments. These include the lessening of the China threat image, the limited Chinese power projection in the South China Sea, Vietnam joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995, the downplaying of nationalist rhetoric, the limited proven oil reserves in the area, and restrained US involvement in the dispute. These transformations have eased the climate of relations over the Spratlys and made possible the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea by China and the ASEAN members in November 2002. Nonetheless, the situation in the Spratlys remains fragile and possibly volatile. in the absence of actual process toward conflict management and resolution, tension could rise again if any of the factors discussed were to change for the worst.
DRNTU::Social sciences::Political science::Political institutions::Asia
RSIS Working Papers ; 129/07
Nanyang Technological University