07 February 2015

CMSI Director Peter Dutton’s Pioneering Testimony on China’s Maritime Sovereignty Claims, Development, and Regional/Global Efforts

For nearly a decade, Prof. Dutton has played a leading role in analyzing and interpreting China’s island and maritime claims, efforts to promote them, and broader goals and trajectory. He has done so for the scholarly and policy communities, the U.S. Navy, and other organizations of the U.S. government. He has drawn on an unusual—if not unique—combination of training as a scholar, lawyer, naval flight officer, and journalist.

In doing so, Prof. Dutton has helped to pioneer an important academic field truly understood by only a select view, some of whom lack his freedom to interface with such a broad range of interlocutors and audiences on both sides of the Pacific. Though too modest to say it himself, Prof. Dutton can already claim significant formal and informal policy influence. In the formal dimension, his periodic testimony before U.S. government bodies bears (re)reading as an encapsulation of his ongoing finding.

I reread the below testimonies last night, and discovered fresh insights in the process. I thus commend this work by Prof. Dutton to anyone interested in this subject. The summaries below are instructive, but it’s worth clicking on the links for the full text.

Peter A. Dutton, Professor and Director China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College, Testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on China’s Maritime Disputes in the East and South China Seas, 14 January 2014.

China pursues its security through interior strategies that involve the development of rings of security around central areas of national interest. The Chinese have long felt vulnerable from the sea and their current maritime strategy seeks to reduce that vulnerability by extending a ring of maritime control around China’s periphery. China pursues this control through a combination of force structure development and legal assertions. Tensions arise because China’s strategy conflicts with the territorial claims, resource interests, and security concerns of other states in East Asia. China’s strategy also causes friction with the United States, which relies on freedom of navigation in maritime East Asia for American security interests and which must reassure regional allies and partners that American security guarantees are meaningful. In order to assure the position of the United States in East Asia, American policies must focus on maintaining the region as an open, maritime system. This requires continuous development of technological advantages to ensure the center of power in Asia does not migrate from the maritime domain to the continent. It also requires supporting the ability of allies, friends, and partners to resist China’s non-militarized coercion, and reinforcing the normative structure that supports the efficacy of maritime power in the region and around the globe. ….

Peter A. Dutton, Professor and Director, China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College, Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Committee Hearing on China’s Maritime Disputes in the East and South China Seas, 4 April 2013.

Questions presented: What are the origins of China’s territorial claims in the East and South China Seas? Upon what historical, geographic, or other bases does China justify them? What is China’s strategy for promoting its “9-dash line” claim? How does China address skepticism to this claim and how sustainable is this strategy? What impact will the Philippines’ initiation of South China Sea boundary arbitration proceedings have on the outlook for the resolution of other maritime boundary disputes in the region? What is the impact of China’s decision not to participate in the proceedings? How will the maritime boundary dispute in East Asia be resolved, if at all? What avenues have the greatest promise to yield an enduring solution? Discuss possible roles for international institutions, such as the United Nations (UN), and regional institutions, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). What should be the role of the US in achieving resolution and ensuring the resolution endures?

Peter Dutton, Associate Professor, China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College, Testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Hearing on Maritime Disputes and Sovereignty Issues in East Asia, 15 July 2009.

… 1. China’s South China Sea legal claims and the activities it has undertaken to enforce them pose a challenge to America’s regional and global maritime interests.

  1. China sees its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea as fundamentally nonnegotiable, yet close to being within its grasp to consolidate.
  2. China is a developing maritime power, but its maritime development is best characterized as a maritime enhancement to China’s continental strategic focus, rather than as a rising expeditionary maritime force.
  3. The U.S. should exercise renewed maritime leadership to ensure the regional and global access necessary to our national defense and to the security of the global maritime system generally. …

Peter A. Dutton, Associate Professor, U.S. Naval War College, Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Committee Hearing on The Implications of China’s Naval Modernization for the United States, 11 June 2009.

Questions presented: How does China’s unique view of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) impact regional security? Is there room for cooperation between the U.S. Navy and the PLAN on global maritime security? If so, how? …

There is some reason to hope that as Chinese naval power grows, Chinese leaders may gain insight into the benefits of the access-oriented bases of international law of the sea. China’s decision to participate in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, though couched in terms of authorization by the United Nations Security Council and the consent of the Somali Transitional Federal Government, is an encouraging opportunity to demonstrate the power of a global maritime partnership to bring about the order and stability necessary for the well-functioning of the global system on which the economic health and political strength of all major countries relies. Such operations enable China to participate meaningfully in the provision of the ‘global goods’ that come from maritime humanitarian and constabulary operations which are meaningfully supported by reasonable interpretations of international law of the sea.

Additionally, cooperation is more likely to occur between Chinese and American naval forces the further away they operate from the East Asian coastal regions. China’s relatively recent history of invasion from the sea seems understandably to have left scars in its national psyche that make it likely that the presence of U.S. naval vessels in its EEZ will remain a source of friction. However, China’s aspirations to play a global role as a responsible major power and its willingness to undertake security operations in parallel, if not exactly in direct cooperation, with the U.S. and other maritime states in the Gulf of Aden suggests that future such opportunities will present themselves and should be welcomed. The more that China works with the U.S. and like-minded states away from its shores, the greater the chance that the essential factor of trust will begin to enter into the equation of U.S.-China relations in East Asia. Should opportunities arise for cooperation in East Asia, such as humanitarian assistance or disaster relief, China should be welcomed as a partner. China’s new hospital ship may provide opportunities in this regard.

In the meantime, the U.S. needs to reassert its leadership role as an advocate for the importance of the access-oriented bases of international law of the sea. A comprehensive strategic communications plan should be developed and coordinated across the agencies of the U.S. government. Additionally, since UNCLOS is the basis of most modern international law of the sea—either as a matter of treaty responsibilities for parties, or as a matter of customary law for non-parties–the U.S. should ratify the Convention in order to more effectively exercise leadership from within its ranks, not just from outside them.

Peter A. Dutton, Associate Professor, China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War College, Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on China’s Views of Sovereignty and Methods of Access Control, 27 February 2008.

The Chinese are seeking to alter the traditional balance of maritime rights between coastal states and the international community, especially in and above the Exclusive Economic Zone, as they seek to consolidate and extend sovereignty over their maritime periphery. China’s efforts to alter the balance of maritime rights are part of its overall anti-access strategy, and could have an impact on the perceived legitimacy of U.S. operations in the region, especially in times of crisis. In response, the U.S. should: promote military engagement to build trust; communicate the expectation that China must accept the burdens as well as the benefits of the international system; continue to exercise international prerogatives in offshore waters and airspace; commit to the preservation of the legal freedoms at sea that belong to the international community; and maintain its commitment to naval strength in East Asia. …