Earlier this month, following an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting, China and its Southeast Asian neighbors announced that they had agreed on a framework, or broad outline, for negotiating a code of conduct in the contested South China Sea. But agreeing to an actual code will be almost impossible.
South China Sea Disputes
When it comes to articulating a comprehensive policy to the thorniest issue in U.S.-China relations—the South China Sea dispute—the Trump administration remains unclear and uncoordinated. This lack of clarity and purpose has left American allies and partners in Asia perplexed and anxious.
Nationalism and militarization are in part driving China’s aggressive posture in the South China Sea. But leaning too heavily on these explanations conceals a third factor behind Beijing’s maritime claims: a burgeoning energy demand. The U.S. must adapt its own strategy accordingly.