Conference proceedings

The South China Sea and Australia’s regional security environment

International relations Defence Australia North America China


The papers included here were initially presented at a conference on the South China Sea held on 28 March 2013 and sponsored by the National Security College, at the Australian National University, Canberra. The stimulus for the workshop was concern over the development of events there and the conviction, as expressed by some commentators, that the area was a ‘flashpoint’ that could become unmanageable. Some see the issue as a case of Chinese pressure exerted upon ASEAN claimants – some of whom have been calling on or open to external support from countries such as the United States and Australia. China, they assert, is becoming expansionist and is pressing the ASEAN claimants to recognise its claim to the area by resorting deliberately to low-key pressure tactics against them. Others see the issue as a problem that could be resolved by negotiation within the framework of international law. They argue that China is simply pressing for recognition of its rights to the area and will negotiate with the ASEAN claimants in good faith in the fullness of time or, to use a well-known expression often voiced by Chinese representatives, ‘when conditions are ripe’. Still others are undecided and wait for events to play out before committing themselves to any particular view. Presenters at the workshop adopted various perspectives that, one way or another, touched upon these views, depending on their professional background and their national affiliation.

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