U.S. Responses to the Arbitration Tribunal's Ruling - A Regional Perspective
This paper addresses developments following the final arbitration ruling from The Hague, issued in July 2016, on the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines. It considers the impact on the region of U.S. responses to the ruling and analyzes Washington's interests in the South China Sea: to preserve a rules-based order, support friends and allies, and preserve freedoms of navigation. However, pursuit of these interests can have an adverse impact on relations between the U.S and China, and affect the ability of these major powers to deal with the bigger issues of North Korea and Taiwan. Calls for the Trump Administration to take a stronger stand in the South China Sea in pursuit of these interests have not always been well received in the region. As a consequence, Southeast Asian countries are increasingly hedging against further deterioration in China-U.S. relations. The paper concludes that rather than acting more strongly against China in the South China Sea, there would be benefit in the U.S. taking a more constructive role by supporting current efforts towards better cooperation between the littoral countries.