PDF Island Disputes and Maritime Regime Building in East Asia: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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To some extent then, the Filipino way of knowing in relation to the dispute is through international law. The Philippines believes that international law points to what constitutes right from wrong. Much like the PRC, the Philippines also think that we can learn from the past. However, the Philippines, rather than believing in the lessons of history, believes that we can learn from past cases in international law. The Filipino discourse for example refers to the Palmas Island Case as a precedent to the Spratly one.

International law provides all the proof that is needed. The Filipino self-perception might be what led it to see the dispute through legal terms. To some extent, the Philippines views itself as the less powerful actor, however, believes that the law is the way to challenge the PRC.

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This exhibits a certain sense of the Philippines being the underdog, who can nevertheless overcome the bigger powers by uniting in playing the game that we are all equal in; the law. The perception of the PRC as the physically stronger part is also visible from the Filipino discourse. The PRC is viewed as a rigid hardliner who make the continuation of negotiations impossible — this according to the Philippines is the main reason for the initiation of the arbitration.

This essay has sought to identify and explain the major dynamics of the Spratly Islands dispute. It has done so by first recounting the background of the dispute and reviewing the existing literature on the dispute. As shown, most of the literature identifies the major dynamics of the dispute through realist lenses whilst suggesting solutions to the dispute in liberalist terms.

A limited amount of constructivist approaches exist, none of these, however, undertake a thorough analysis of the underlying identities and perceptions of the dispute.

Perspectives on maritime disputes in East Asia – GeoStrategia

Moreover, the PRC discourse revealed a certain type of epistemology used by the PRC; utilizing history as a way of knowing and thus as a way of telling right from wrong. The PRC thus emphasizes the importance of learning from the past in order to improve the world we live in. Contrastingly, the Philippines perceives itself as a peaceful state, acting within the boundaries prescribed by international law. It identifies itself as less powerful than the PRC, however, understands international law as a way to stand up to the PRC.

The PRC is, perceived as an aggressive hardliner who has made dialogue impossible. The Filipino discourse shows that it has come to view international law, and particularly UNCLOS, as the only way to objectively tell right from wrong in the dispute. For the Philippines international law is thus the only way to know who the Spratly Islands belong to. At the heart of the dispute therefore, lie two fundamentally different epistemological foci. One state believes in the power of history to determine who has sovereignty over what, whereas the other state believes that applying the law is the only way to determine this.

It is as if the PRC and the Philippines are speaking two different languages with very different grammatical rules, therefore not understanding each other. Furthermore, each state perceives itself as the good guy and the other as the aggressor.

East Asia's Maritime Disputes and the US Rebalance

This, combined with the two incompatible understandings of how to determine what the right solution is, serves to reproduce the dispute in irreconcilable terms and drives it into a deadlock of conflicting identities and perceptions. Keqiang, H. Aquino, Beningno S. Rosario, Albert F. Meyer, Lieutenant Colonel Stanley E.

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Perspectives on maritime disputes in East Asia

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In some cases, one can find examples of the aggressive use of military force and intransigent bargaining strategies, while in others military inaction and accommodative diplomacy are equally evident. When and why do disputants pursue conflictual policies? Conversely, why do they at other times seek the containment, if not the resolution, of territorial disputes by shelving thorny sovereignty issues?

This book uses a territorial bargaining game framework to analyze various stages of dispute initiation, escalation, and de-escalation in a consistent and systematic manner. It starts from an assumption that territory involves mixed motive games, which can be characterized as having elements of partnership, competition, and conflict.