Building Maritime Security from Land: A Multi-Faceted Approach
- Asyura Salleh
The waters of Southeast Asia stretch 6,500 kilometers across a dozen seas, many archipelagic waterways, and thousands of islands. Yet, the region’s narrow focus on major power tensions in areas such as the South China Sea has prevented a wider understanding of the roots of maritime instability in the region. As the main drivers of maritime insecurity remain unaddressed, organized political violence in the regional waters continues to endanger the transit of goods and people along these waterways. Stable Seas, a program of the One Earth Future Foundation, provides a unique approach that studies linkages between nine critical maritime issues to allow for a more holistic and multi-faceted understanding of Southeast Asia’s maritime security.
The South China Sea is recognized for the tensions that have materialized between the United States, China, and other emerging powers. While America persists with freedom of navigation operations, China continues to expand military infrastructure on contested territory.i Meanwhile, Southeast Asian claimant states are engaged in an intricate territorial dispute over highly contested waters filled with abundant fisheries stocks and rich oil and gas deposits. Through this prism of hard security concerns, the region’s maritime security is largely determined by the balance of military capabilities between regional powers and the ability to defuse unanticipated security crises. This focus has produced competitive geopolitics in a region that could greatly benefit instead from stronger multilateral cooperation around issues such as fisheries protection, marine conservation, and sustainable blue economy development.