Posted: May 25, 2017 3:29 PM

CSIS Officials Challenge U.S. to Clarify Commitment, Exercise Restraint in Maritime Asia

By JAMES PETERSON, Special Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) encouraged the Trump administration to think long term when it comes to countering coercion in maritime Asia.

The scholars from the Washington-based think tank summarized their recommendations during a May 25 conference in a recent report, “Countering Coercion in Maritime Asia: The Theory and Practice of Gray Zone Deterrence.”

The report covered China’s recent aggressive actions in the South China Sea and East China Sea, presenting a concern to the United States and its allies. The report showed how China tries to push the boundaries of rules and norms as it expands its presence in the maritime domain.

The CSIS scholars explained the need for the United States to react differently to these actions when compared with previous instances.

“Many of the polices that would be optimal in many of these cases are on the right side,” said Zack Cooper, CSIS’s senior fellow for Asia Security, pointing to a list of polices on a slideshow. “Deterrence through denial, public signaling, specific commitments, tight alliance and some calculated acceptance of risk.”

Mike Green, the think tank’s senior vice president of Asia and Japan chair, said that while China is featured heavily in the report, the goal of these policy recommendations is not to alienate China, but to give the United States a framework to handle these situations.

“The objective of countering coercion,” he said, “is not to deny China a role in the maritime domain or legitimate security or to obstruct the opportunities between ourselves and our allies. … The point is not to roll the clock back or stop the clock.”

“It’s absolutely vital that this not be about the United States and China,” Cooper said, while clarifying the purpose of the report. “This is about international rules and norms that were developed by the international community.”

Kathleen Hicks, CSIS senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger chair and director of International Security Program, believes each administration thinks on a short-term basis, but needs to make focus on the long term.

“We would like there to be better U.S. strategic thinking about that bigger picture,” Hicks said. “And then observing how it manifests in what seem to be small things that can be managed case by case. Once you do that it makes already complex problems in individual cases even more complex, and we think that’s good.”

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