May 16, 2017

Nong Hong

The patrols performed by the U.S. navy vessels Lassen, Curtis Wilbur, and William P. Lawrence stem from the U.S. policy of asserting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Both China and the United States view freedom of navigation as vital to their national interests, but differ in defining the proper exercise of that freedom.

This report outlines the perspectives of China and the U.S. in the South China Sea dispute, including their divergent legal interpretation of freedom of navigation, and assesses the relationship between military activity and civilian freedom of navigation. The debate on the legitimacy of military activities in a foreign country’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ) reflects the competing interests of two groups, the user states and the coastal states. The report looks into the role of the third party compulsory dispute settlement mechanism of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in addressing these differences. The report also discusses the efforts at bridging the conceptual and perception gap from both the academic and policy perspectives.

Download the Report: Understanding China-U.S. Relations in the South China Sea