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Strategic Trends in the South China Sea/the East Sea and East Asia's Security Architecture: The View from Australia
International Studies (2014)
  • Chris Rahman

Australia has several important security interests in the South China Sea. This paper will outline those interests and the policy responses to challenges to those interests. The first interest is in maintaining regional peace and stability and, in particular, avoiding conflict. Second, Australia has increasingly deep economic ties to both Southeast and Northeast Asia. Any conflict over the South China Sea could negatively impact those ties and the benefits derived from trade. Australia also has both direct and indirect economic and strategic interests in the continued security of South China Sea shipping; or sea lines of communication (SLOC). In a direct sense, some Australian shipping transits through the South China Sea, although it not the most important SLOC for Australia in terms of volume of traded goods. Indirectly, as a heavily trade-dependent nation, Australia has an abiding interest in the security of the entire global seaborne trading system. Australia’s dependence upon trade with Asia is particularly important. Therefore South China Sea SLOC have a far greater importance to Australia than merely the value of Australian trade that passes across those waters.

Third, as an essential element of regional stability, Australia is explicitly committed to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, including for warships and other government vessels. Fourth, Any conflict that does break out in the South China Sea in which the United States is required to come to the aid of one of its treaty partners potentially could lead to ANZUS alliance commitments to assist the United States on the part of Australia. Fifth, Australia has non-alliance partnerships committed to assuring the external security of Malaysia, under the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), and Indonesia, under the Lombok Treaty. Both states are parties to the South China Sea disputes. Last, Australia is committed to regional institutions, such as ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum, as means of mitigating tensions in the South China Sea.

The paper will assess Australia’s policy and defence responses to its South China Sea interests and for maintenance of the geopolitical status quo.

  • South China Sea,
  • Australian defence policy
Publication Date
December, 2014
Citation Information
Chris Rahman. "Strategic Trends in the South China Sea/the East Sea and East Asia's Security Architecture: The View from Australia" International Studies Vol. 31 Iss. December (2014)
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