Acronyms of the Asia Pacific
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
The ADB was founded on December 19, 1966 to facilitate economic cooperation and regional development in Asia. As is the case in the World Bank, the voting power of its 67 members (48 members from Asia and the Pacific region) depends largely on their capital subscriptions. Since establishment, Japan has maintained the largest proportion of voting power at 12.80%, followed by the United States with 12.71%, China with 5.46%, India with 5.37%, and Australia with 4.93%. The ADB's headquarters lies within Metro Manila at Mandaluyong, Philippines.
The highest ruling body of the ADB is the Board of Governors, which is composed of representatives from every member state. The Governors elect 12 individuals to the Board of Directors; the Directors perform full time duties at ABD and oversee the administrative budget and review all policies. The Governors also annually elect the President of the ADB who chairs the Board of Directors and heads a management team. For the past 50 years, the Presidents of the ADB have been Japanese. The current President of the ADB is Takehiko Nakao, who has been serving since 2013.
In December 2016, ADB celebrated its 50th anniversary. Over the course of 50 years, the organization has provided more than $250 billion in infrastructure, research, and knowledge sharing. In light of its 50th anniversary, the ADB highlighted its achievements, but also labelled remaining challenges, include fighting corruption, strengthening civil society, enhancing environmental and economic sustainability, regional integration, and reducing poverty. The major vehicles used to combat these problems are loans, grants, and information sharing.
In tandem with these developments, the ADB formulated a strategic framework for its 2008-2020 activities called Strategy 2020. Sharing guidelines and structure akin to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, ADB members have envisioned an Asia Pacific that is free of poverty by 2020. To achieve this goal, projects such as the recently approved Pakistan: Access to Clean Energy Investment Program, Solar Power Development Project in the Solomon Islands,and Flood Management in Selected River Basins Sector Project in Indonesia have commenced. Additionally, through its Asian Development Fund (ADF), the ADB typically allocated grants and low-interest loans to aid the most economically vulnerable states, such as Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Laos. However, as of 2017, the ADF has become a grant-only operation.
The AIIB is an international financial institution designed to finance sustainable infrastructure projects in the Asia Pacific. The initiative was first launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang during their state visit to Indonesia on October 3, 2013. China primarily sponsors the AIIB, contributing one-third of total subscriptions and possesses 28.70% of the organization’s voting power. The AIIB headquarters is located in Beijing between the Olympic Forest Park and the Bird’s Nest Stadium; construction is slated for completion by the end of 2019. As of January 2017, 50 countries are members of the AIIB (34 regional members and 16 non-regional members) – notable non-members include the United States and Japan.
In October 2014, 21 Asian countries committed to help China establish the AIIB through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Over the next few months, China and these Prospective Founding Member (PFM) countries met formally to discuss the bank’s charter: the Articles of Agreement. Other countries in the region and several European states (including the UK, Germany, and France) applied for membership and raised the PFM figure to 57. The PFMs finalized the Articles of Agreement in May 2015 and the charter took effect on December 25, 2015. As of November 2016, 9 of the 57 PFM have not ratified the Articles of Agreement.
The AIIB was formally opened for business on January 16, 2016 when the Board of Governors, the AIIB’s highest decision-making body, elected Jin Liqun as its first President. Below the Board of Governors is the Board of Directors, which is responsible for the general operations of the bank. There is also an International Advisory Panel dedicated to advising the President and Senior Management on the Bank’s strategies and policies.
The AIIB has a registered capital of $100 billion, compared to the ADB’s $165 billion and the World Bank’s $252.8 billion. Projects with AIIB approval involve urban development in Indonesia, road construction in Tajikistan and Pakistan, and electricity expansion in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar. Several of these projects are co-financed by the ADB, the World Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). On May 2, 2016, President Jin Liqun and the ADB President Takehiko Nakao signed an MOU to strengthen joint cooperation between the two institutions. In the same month, the AIIB committed to strengthen contributions to resolve the needs of asylum seekers, refugees, and internally displaced people in coincidence with the UN’s One Humanity agenda.
APEC was founded on November 1989 in Canberra, Australia. Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke envisioned the creation of a regional economic forum for the Pacific Rim during a speech in Seoul on January 31, 1989, just 10 months prior to its founding. Starting with 12 Asia Pacific members during its genesis, APEC now maintains a total membership of 21 countries. APEC is recognized as one of the world’s most influential regional economic institutions and is dedicated to facilitating economic activities and trade across countries in the Asia Pacific region.
The core of APEC’s mission statement was carved from the “Bogor Goals” – a set of trade and development principles and programs conceived in Bogor, Indonesia in 1994. The leaders of the 1994 APEC Summit pledged support for the implementation of open trade and investment for all industrialized member states by 2010, and for developing member states by 2020. According to APEC’s 2016 assessment, the organization has made considerable progress towards achieving the Bogor Goals. APEC has also tackled these initiatives by facilitating customs at borders, cultivating a favorable business climate across borders and regularly publishing research on current economic trends and case studies on aspects of the service industry.
Despite the significant growth in trade and investment amongst APEC members since 1994, overall trade is still convalescing from the 2008 Financial Crisis. There has been a reduction in regulations, tariffs, and restrictions on services and investments; however, the majority of APEC still retains high trade barriers in the agricultural sector. As of 2015, APEC accounts for 49% of total global imports and exports, and the approximately 2.8 billion people who live in APEC countries account for 47% of global GDP.
Every year, all of the APEC members’ national leaders gather at a designated host country for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. The leaders simultaneously act as representatives for their countries while conducting themselves as the highest ruling body of APEC. At these summits, the leaders participate in open discourse, lay out a framework for cooperative initiatives, and at the end of the forum, pledge a set of goals and principles that have materialized throughout the discussion. This practice is called the Leaders’ Declaration, and is concluded with a picture of all the leaders together. The annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meetings are well remembered for its tradition of having all attending leaders wear the host country’s national or traditional attire.
ASEAN is a regional organization of Southeast Asian countries that was formed on August 8, 1967. The Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand signed the ASEAN Declaration in Bangkok, Thailand – ASEAN is now composed of 10 Southeast Asian member states (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar [Burma], Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and 2 candidate/observer states (Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste). The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia established the foundation of ASEAN’s mission to strengthen existing bonds of regional solidarity and cooperation to “enhance peace, friendship and mutual cooperation on matters affecting Southeast Asia.” The ASEAN motto is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community.”
Originally, the primary purpose of ASEAN was to reduce conflict between member states by ensuring territorial sovereignty and facilitating cooperation. The 1960s were turbulent times for ASEAN members, who were fighting communist insurgents and contending with the geopolitics of the Cold War in the region. ASEAN countries, in tandem with the precepts of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, managed to work together, unite on policies, and endure multiple crises in the region – namely the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. Today, the 12 ASEAN participants cover more than 1.7 million square miles, with a combined population of 630 million people, and an economy valued at $2.4 trillion.
ASEAN functions through a consensus based decision-making process, requiring the approval of all member countries before any formal decisions are made. ASEAN maintains its secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia and is headed by a secretary-general who is chosen amongst ASEAN member states based on alphabetical roation to a 5-year, non-renewable term. The bureaucratic structure and power of ASEAN is limited due to ASEAN’s proclivity towards state sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs of members.
ASEAN plays an increasingly central role in regional affairs of East and Southeast Asia; as such, the various regional integration initiatives that ASEAN undertakes cover the political-security, economic, and socio-cultural realms. As a region-dependent institution, ASEAN is also interested in integrating the economies of its member countries, increasing people-to-people exchanges, and deepening member relations. The Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 is the exemplification of ASEAN’s penultimate ambitions.
ASEAN has institutionalized the ASEAN+3 (China, Japan, South Korea) and informal ASEAN+6 (ASEAN+3, Australia, India, New Zealand) groupings to expand engagement with the region’s major trading partners. The creation of the ASEAN Free Trade Area in 1992 and the declaration of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 were designed to lower tariffs and non-tariff barriers between markets. As of 2010, duties were eliminated on 99.2% of tariff lines for the ASEAN+6 Member States, generating discussion over a possible ASEAN+6 Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Since then, this arrangement has more or less evolved into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
In the realm of security, ASEAN has become a prominent actor and platform for addressing regional security issues. ASEAN hosts the annual ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit, bringing together regional and extra-regional partners such as the United States, China, North Korea, and India to discuss issues such as the maritime disputes in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear program. Although ASEAN’s formal meetings are not known on producing deliverables, the meetings and interactions of leaders are, according to experts, crucial for establishing trust and substantive results in the future.
CPEC is a collection of projects initiated to institutionalize a framework of regional connectivity between China and Pakistan. CPEC is customarily regarded as an important branch of China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative and is intrinsically tied to Pakistan's Vision 2025: through CPEC, Pakistan aims to become a high-middle income country by achieving a target per capita GDP of $4,200 by 2025.
CPEC was formally proposed by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on May 23, 2013. Both agreed to build an ‘economic corridor’ between the two countries to enhance mutual connectivity. Throughout 2014, Pakistani and Chinese officials conducted many technical meetings to iron out the operational details of CPEC.
On November 8, 2014, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Premier Li Kequiang announced the full scope of CPEC in Beijing; in addition, China declared its intention to finance Chinese companies to establish $45.6 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan over the next six years. During his state visit to Pakistan, Chinese President Xi Jinping officially commenced work on the original $45.6 billion CPEC projects, even arranging $28 billion worth of fast-tracked "Early Harvest" projects to be developed by the end of 2018.
CPEC places particular emphasis on physical infrastructure projects with the long-term intent of linking Pakistani seaports in Gwadar and Karachi to China's northwestern Xinjiang via an expansive network of highways and railways. Bilaterally, CPEC is designed to overhaul aging infrastructure, establish special economic zones, improve electrical connectivity, and promote citizen-level interaction. Analogous to the OBOR mission, CPEC is also structured to positively impact connectivity between Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Central Asia. CPEC regularly updates the status of its many projects and details the geographic extent of its plans on maps.
November 13, 2016 was an important milestone that marked the first time that trade activity had taken place through CPEC: cargo from China was trucked down the corridor and was loaded at Gwadar port on ships headed to markets in West Asia and Africa. Since then, progress on CPEC has continued to make headway in multiple dimensions: on February 11, 2017, CPEC secured the cooperation of think tanks and technical organizations such as the Pakistan-China Institute and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. However, as it stands, simmering tensions between India and Pakistan continue to complicate the long-term development timeline of CPEC. Recently, speculation has begun that China is enlisting Russia's participation in CPEC to not only mollify India, but also further augment the initiative’s reach.
An EEZ is a sea zone accorded under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in which a country is legated special rights for the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind currents, within that zone. An EEZ extends no further than 200 nautical miles from the baseline of the country’s coast out to sea. Within the 200 nautical mile limit, any EEZ can also be contiguous and adjacent to both the country’s territorial sea (which grants absolute legal jurisdiction within 12 nautical miles) and its continental shelf (provisions relating to non-living resources).
The concept of the EEZ was first legally promulgated by the United States in the Truman Proclamation of September 28, 1945. It was the inaugural attempt at declaring the importance of maintaining exclusive jurisdiction over marine resources beyond the territorial sea. The proclamation initially framed the EEZ through the geographic context of the continental shelf and later introduced language regarding the protection of fisheries and even the freedom of navigation (then called the freedom of-the-seas doctrine).
On December 10, 1982, the term EEZ was formally adopted during the third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea; since then, the EEZ provisions have received international acceptance in state practice as customary international law. Regardless, attempting to pin down the exact defining parameters of an EEZ has generated disputes between countries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia.
As it pertains to Asia more recently, China has been actively asserting and extending its EEZ claims in the East China Sea (ECS) and the South China Sea (SCS). China delineates its territorial claims in the SCS using the nine-dash line that encloses an area covering approximately 80% of the SCS. China’s “salami-slicing” or “cabbage strategy” employs a series of incremental actions such as artificial island building (which does not procure a territorial sea) and increasing maritime patrols to leverage themselves in disputes over the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, and Scarborough Shoal in the SCS, and the Senkaku Islands in the ECS. These tensions have raised a constant concern that disputes could lead to miscalculation and conflict between China and a neighboring East Asian or Southeast Asian country.
KORUS FTA is a bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea. It is the first US Free Trade Agreement with an East Asian partner. The two countries signed the agreement on June 30, 2007, and later updated it on December 3, 2010. KORUS was approved by US Congress on October 12, 2011, and by South Korea’s National Assembly on November 22, 2011. President Barack Obama signed the legislation on October 21, 2011.
KORUS entered into force on March 15, 2012, and aims to reduce and eliminate bilateral tariffs and other barriers between the US and South Korea and to enhance the existing rules regulating bilateral trade and investment. The FTA covers many areas of trade and cooperation including manufactured goods, agricultural goods, investment, intellectual property rights, worker rights, and the environment. The agreement was intended to eliminate tariffs on nearly 95% of bilateral trade in consumer and industrial goods within five years of its implementation.
US-South Korea trade in goods and services increased from 126.5 billion in 2011 to nearly $150 billion in 2015. As of 2015, US exports in manufactured goods to South Korea had risen to $37.3 billion and services to an estimated $22.4 billion.
The OBOR initiative, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative, The Silk Road Economic Belt, and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road, is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposed development strategy and framework that seeks to connect China with the rest of Eurasia. It was unveiled on September 7, 2013 during Xi’s speech titled "Promote People-to-People Friendship and Create a Better Future" at Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev University. OBOR is Xi’s personal and modern reinvention of the ancient Silk Road established during the Han dynasty.
Xi conceived two main components to OBOR: the land-based "Silk Road Economic Belt" (SREB) and the seafaring "Maritime Silk Road" (MSR). The land-based “belt” encompasses countries situated on the classic Silk Road through Central-West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. The maritime-focused “road” was launched as a sister project to the belt and sought to attract investment and cultivate cooperation between Oceania, Southeast Asia, and North Africa through contiguous bodies of water: the South China Sea, southern parts of the Pacific Ocean, and the greater Indian Ocean area.
Together, the belt and the road were aligned to undergird China's push for a bigger role in global affairs and promote mutual inclusiveness; if successful, OBOR would cover 63% of the world’s population, an annual GDP of $2.1 trillion, and 29% of global wealth. Ultimately, the combined initiatives would result in the integration of multiple regions into cohesive ‘economic corridors’ by consolidating infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade.
From 2014-2016, China has focused on transforming OBOR from a conceptual framework into an operational project. Under the justification that many of the countries part of OBOR are also members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China set up bilateral financing bridges for country-specific infrastructure plans. Xi has also established the Silk Road Fund – a $40 billion development fund exclusively designed to foster increased investment in businesses within OBOR. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, China has directly funneled $11 billion into OBOR countries in the first three quarters of 2016 alone.
2017 is slated to be a pivotal year for OBOR as China diverts more resources towards projects revolving around its provincial governments. During 2016, China has made major progress on Pakistan’s Gwadar Port and scholars see potential for greater US-China cooperation over OBOR’s mission to promote greater stability and economic growth in Central Asia and the Middle East. OBOR shares many parallels with the US New Silk Road Initiative, and though it would take concrete effort and planning, considering that both the US and China have an interest in a stable Central Asia and Middle East, bilateral coordination would generate significant, positive returns.
RCEP is an ASEAN-centered proposal for a regional free trade area covering a total of 16 member states. The members are composed of the 10 member states of ASEAN and six countries with which ASEAN has existing free-trade agreements (Australia, India, New Zealand, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea); this grouping is also referred to as the ASEAN+6, and notably excludes the United States. RCEP was established to broaden and deepen participation in the economic development of the region, strengthen economic linkages, facilitate trade and investment, and minimize the development gap amongst members.
RCEP negotiations were first launched on November 20, 2012 in the margins of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Negotiations were conducted under the framework established by the Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating RCEP and strictly adhered to topics regarding trade in goods and services and investment in economic and technical cooperation. One of the most widely recognized benefits of these high-level regional agreements is to consolidate trade standards and address the “noodle bowl” effect of overlapping bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements across nations.
RCEP covers more than 3 billion people, a combined GDP of $22.7 trillion, and nearly one-third of world trade. As of the 16th round of negotiations that took place on December 2016 in Tangerang, Indonesia, RCEP would not require its members to take comprehensive steps to liberalize their economies, improve labor rights, upgrade environmental standards, or protect intellectual property.
Traditionally, the RCEP negotiations process was slow due to the high-maintenance difficulty of uniting members’ standards on the modality of integration; the 16 members often clashed to protect their own interests in disparate domains. For example, until recently, India wouldn’t budge on restrictions in the service industry, the removal of technical barriers to trade taken under phytosanitary measures, and trade in the pharmaceutical and textile industries. And empirically, China has been reluctant to participate in free-trade negotiations in fear of relinquishing its competitive position as an export center. Nevertheless, RCEP is envisaged to be a modern and high-quality economic partnership agreement.
Attention has swung back to RCEP after US President Trump’s executive order on January 23, 2017 withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Irrespective of scholarly disagreements over the RCEP vs. TPP debate, RCEP negotiations have hastened since the executive order. Thai Minister of Commerce Apiradi Tantraporn stated the US withdrawal gives RCEP a more important role as Asian countries come to comprehend the void left by the TPP. She also confirmed that members would actively try to conclude negotiations on the modalities for liberalization by the middle of 2017. In China, these developments are perceived to be a net positive for Chinese President Xi’s goals for fostering economic integration in the Asia Pacific region.
THAAD is a ‘hit-to-kill’ orientation of the US Army’s ballistic missile defense (BMD) system designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles in their terminal phase of flight. THAAD is the only BMD system capable of intercepting short and medium range ballistic missiles both inside and outside the atmosphere (endo- and exo-atmospheric capability). The THAAD battery is globally in high-demand because of its mobility and interoperability with other BMD networks.
In 1987, the concept of THAAD, then known as the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system, was conceived and formally proposed in 1990 to contract seeking industries. In September 1992, the US Army selected and awarded a $689 million contract to Lockheed Martin to be the prime developer for THAAD. As of 2017, Lockheed Martin remains the primary contractor for THAAD alongside a host of key subcontractors including Raytheon, Boeing, and Aerojet.
The decision to create this new ‘theatre-type’ of missile defense was influenced by the difficulties the US had in countering Iraq's SCUD missile attacks during the Gulf War. The premise of THAAD’s ‘hit-and-kill’ orientation was to rely on kinetic energy to minimize the risk of detonating a successfully intercepted warhead or nuclear-tipped missile.
THAAD’s first successful flight test occurred on April 25, 1995 at White Sands Missile Range; THAAD first successfully intercepted a test target (Hera missile) on June 10, 1999. The US Army activated its first THAAD unit, the Alpha Battery, on May 28, 2008 and made its first deployment outside of the contiguous US to Hawaii in June 2009. The US then deployed the Alpha Battery to Guam in April 2013 in light of worrying North Korean and Chinese behavior. In 2014, the US Army transferred operational control of THAAD to the Missile Defense Agency – the agency subsequently began investigating sites to base THAAD batteries in South Korea.
The US and South Korea agreed to deploy THAAD onto the Korean peninsula on July 8, 2016 in response to North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile tests. Seongsan village within Seogju County was designated as the initial deployment site for THAAD, approximately 125 miles southeast of Seoul.
However, there is significant South Korean domestic opposition against THAAD: some protestors believe that deploying THAAD will provoke North Korea into regional instability and diminish the possibility of peaceful reunification. Protestors also fear that THAAD will bring unnecessary tension to South Korean-Chinese relations and business ties. Seongju residents also fear the health and environmental effects of THAAD’s radar, despite US and ROK government claims otherwise. As of 2017, progressives in the National Assembly are appealing to public opinion by calling the deployment hasty and unilateral and declaring that THAAD would be economically costly. Consequently, there is continued discussion to move THAAD’s location to the Lotte Skyhill Seongju Country Club: a golf course in a more remote and higher-elevated location.
On February 1, 2017, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis embarked on a four-day trip to meet with defense leaders in Japan and South Korea. In South Korea, Secretary Mattis and Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn reaffirmed a bilateral commitment to deploying THAAD by the end of 2017. However, both China and North Korea have been vocal in their opposition to THAAD on the Korean peninsula.
The TPP is a proposed multilateral free-trade agreement negotiated between 12 Pacific countries, notably including the United States and Japan and excluding China and India. The TPP would be the largest and most ambitious Free Trade Agreement to date and seeks to cultivate economic growth by supporting the creation of jobs, enhancing innovation, reducing poverty in signatories' countries, and promoting transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor, environmental and intellectual property protections. The TPP would cover a group that accounts for roughly 40% of global GDP and one-third of global trade.
The TPP was formed as an expansion of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (the P4) signed by Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore on June 3, 2005. On February 4, 2008, the Office of the United States Trade Representative announced interest in participating in P4 negotiations and on September 22, 2008 the US formally joined negotiations. Shortly after, on November 26, 2008, Australia, Peru, and Vietnam also joined negotiations during the APEC Ministerial Meeting in Lima, Peru. The first round of TPP negotiations took place on March 19, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia – after the third round of negotiations, Malaysia was accepted as the ninth TPP participant on October 6, 2010. After the thirteenth round, Mexico and Canada also joined. Japan became the twelfth and final participant, joining negotiations on July 23, 2013.
After 7 years, 19 rounds of negotiations, and a flurry of technical group meetings, negotiations finally concluded on October 4, 2015. On February 4, 2016, the 12 countries signed the agreement, sending it to their respective capitals for ratification. To enter into force, the agreement must be ratified by all 12 countries. If this has not happened by February 2018, then it will come into force once the GDP of at least six ratifying states represents 85% of the total GDP of all 12 signatories.
US President Trump’s executive order on January 23, 2017 withdrawing the US from the TPP has made it virtually impossible for the agreement to ever enter into force. In lieu of the TPP, Trump has adamantly maintained that bilateral trade negotiations, rather than multialeral agreements, provide the US with maximum leverage. Japan’s efforts in November 2016 (visit to Trump and parliamentary ratification) and in January 2017 (the Diet passing TPP) to keep the deal afloat were ultimately fruitless.
As is stands, the future of the TPP and the implications of US withdrawal appears murky. While there are initiatives to move forward with renegotiating a TPP without the US, Japan has rejected these efforts, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe firmly adhering to the belief that TPP without the US would be "meaningless." Pundits and scholars have highlighted that the ball is now in China’s court: with the US having “lost their seat at the table" for shaping Asian trade investment rules.
management of marine resources and peaceful use of the ocean. The convention came into force on November 4, 1994 a year after Guyana became the 60th state to ratify it. UNCLOS was introduced to expand upon, codify, and modernize the 17th century ‘freedom of the seas’ doctrine. Freedom of the seas generally provided a country jurisdiction over waters three miles off its coast — a distance that a shore-based cannon could reach; the remainder of the seas belonged to no one. However, towards the 20th century, rapid technological changes, military expansion, and natural resource competition necessitated conclusive debate over state interactions with the ocean.
The international community convened at Geneva for the First United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea from February 24 to April 29, 1958. The conference produced four conventions of the high seas which would collectively be known as the 1958 Geneva Conventions. While these accords were considered a productive start, participants did not establish exhaustive definitions and limits regarding territorial ocean space and resource use. The General Assembly organized the Second United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea to address these concerns in 1960; however, participants only passed resolutions concerning the breadth of the territorial sea and fishery limits. It was not until the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea a series of six meetings taking place throughout 1973 – 1982, that a substantive agreement was reached. UNCLOS was born from this conference, thus establishing the principles of extended coastal state jurisdiction which specifically delimits a country’s exclusive economic zone, contiguous zone, and continental shelf.
As it pertains to Asia more recently, China has been actively asserting and extending its maritime claims in the East China Sea and the South China Sea (SCS). China delineates its territorial claims in the SCS using the nine-dash line. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines that China’s sovereignty claims in the SCS violated UNCLOS. China has not accepted the validity of this ruling, asserting that this dispute was a bilateral matter. While the United States does not take a stance on the sovereignty of the South China Sea, the US has adamantly supported freedom of navigation. However, there is ongoing debate on the legitimacy of US expressions on this issue because Congress has not ratified UNCLOS.