June 15: Maritime Border Issues in Northeast Asia

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June 15, 2012: Maritime Border Issues in Northeast Asia
(Click to enlarge) From Left to Right: Akihiro Iwashita, Tony Payan, Thomas Bickford, Abraham Denmark, and Martin Pratt.
(Click to enlarge) From Left to Right: Akihiro Iwashita, Tony Payan, Thomas Bickford, Abraham Denmark, and Martin Pratt.

Martime Border Issues in Northeast Asia

WASHINGTON, DC (June 15, 2012) – Maritime challenges are increasingly at the center of Asia-Pacific regional security concerns, particularly in the South and East China seas. However, for all of the recent focus on tensions over maritime and territorial disputes in North and Southeast Asia, little attention has been paid to the underlying conflicts and challenges of “bordering” the sea. This seminar brought together leading researchers on border studies and experts on the perspectives of the United States and China and their approaches to maintaining and managing maritime border issues in the Asia Pacific.

Dr. Tony Payan began with an overview of “Border Studies” as an interdisciplinary field and its spread from North America to its study worldwide, followed by a brief introduction of the Border Regions in Transition (BRIT) initiative, which will be holding its first conference in Asia this year at the maritime border between Japan and Korea. He explained that borders exist in our minds, and can be constructed as well as deconstructed. From there Dr. Akihiro Iwashita built on this point, describing a trend of disputed borders shifting from the northern tier (eg: Sino-Russian) to maritime borders in the middle and southern regions of the globe.

Looking specifically at Asia, Dr. Thomas Bickford presented a history of China’s approach to it maritime borders, and attention to these issues marks a shift from its concerns with the land borders it shares with its numerous neighbors. In analyzing China’s current approach to its maritime borders, Mr. Abraham Denmark described China’s near term objectives, its present tactics, and the internal reasons behind their decision making process on these actions. Tying all of this together, Professor Martin Pratt drew on his expertise on the United Nations Law of the Sea convention to get into find details of how maritime boundaries are defined, and why it is so difficult for nations to sort them out.

Dr. Thomas Bickford is an Asia analyst in the China Security Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analysis. He is the author of several articles and book chapters on Chinese national security issues, including civil-military relations, defense economics, U.S. and Chinese policy towards Taiwan, professional military education, and internal security.

Mr. Abraham Denmark is a Senior Project Director for Political and Security Affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). He also serves as an Asia-Pacific Security Advisor at the Center for Naval Analyses and is a Sasakawa Peace Foundation Nonresident Fellow at CSIS-Pacific Forum. He is a member of the National Committee on United States–China Relations, the U.S. Naval Institute, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Dr. Akihiro Iwashita is a professor at the Slavic Research Center at Hokkaido University and representative of the Global COE program on “Reshaping Japan’s Border Studies.” Dr. Iwashita is coordinating the upcoming Border Regions in Transition (BRIT) XII Conference in Fukuoka, Japan/Busan, Korea. In 2011, the 24th Regional Publishers Cultural Achievement Prize was awarded to his book entitled Japan’s Borders: How to break the “Spell” (in Japanese).

Dr. Tony Payan is an associate professor of Political Science, serving on the Graduate Faculty at The University of Texas at El Paso and the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. Dr. Payan formerly served as President of the Association for Borderlands Studies, and has written numerous books and articles on the applicability of international relations theory to the U.S.-Mexico border and other border environments.

Professor Martin Pratt is Director of Research at the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University, in Durham, UK. and an adviser to the Task Force on International Boundaries of the United Nations Geographic Information Working Group. He specializes in the analysis of sovereignty and jurisdictional disputes and has written on more than fifty international boundary disputes.