Asia's maritime conflicts: Where is the United Nations?
July-September 2015
By: First Adm. Amarulla Octavian
A team of navy personnel and three Philippine congressmen land at the tiny rock of Scarborough Shoal bearing the Philippine flag that was earlier planted by Filipino fishermen.

Maritime disputes are not a new international issue in the 21st century. We know them very well despite the birth of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) in 1982. Some of the most well-known maritime disputes, no less, are in East Asia, namely the East and South China Seas.

In the East China Sea, there is the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute between Japan and China, as well as the Takeshima/Dokdo Islands dispute between Japan and South Korea. The South China Sea disputes are probably the most talked-about maritime disputes in the region – and the world – with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all claimants. The implications of these disputes include possible armed conflict among the claimant states, a regional arms race and a possible disruption of the global economy if anything should happen in the world’s most vital sea lanes.

These maritime disputes are increasingly troublesome for the international community in this era of globalization. East Asia is a maritime region, dynamic in every possible way. It is home to some of the world’s largest economies and drives global growth. Most of the world’s shipping passes through the region’s waters, including right past Indonesia, with the movement of goods and services, energy resources and some of the world’s strongest naval forces. This underlines the importance of a stable and peaceful East Asia, and the urgency of a peaceful territorial dispute settlement mechanism among the related parties.

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