Maritime Energy Resources in Asia: Rising Tensions over Critical Marine Resources (NBR Special Report no.35, pp1-10)
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Recent months have witnessed escalating tensions among the coastal states of East and Southeast Asia over the broad offshore areas that are subject to competing maritime claims. These developments have featured increasingly robust “diplomatic” exchanges, including multiple claims and counterclaims together with protest notes and counterprotests being lodged with the United Nations secretary-general, and, perhaps most worryingly, a number of confrontations at sea. The latter incidents have, notably and alarmingly, featured several interventions on the part of the vessels of one state designed to prevent oil exploration activities by other claimant states. These activities serve to underscore the widely held view that the territorial and maritime disputes that have long plagued the East China Sea, South China Sea, and Gulf of Thailand have a strong marine resource, particularly seabed energy resource, dimension. Indeed, these long-standing territorial and maritime disputes are set against the backdrop of persistent perceptions on the part of claimant states that valuable and increasingly urgently needed marine resources are at stake and potentially at risk. An additional source of disquiet in this context is that the states involved have also been engaged in rapid, sustained, and arguably competitive military modernization efforts.