Earlier this week, the commander of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet made headlines when he suggested that ASEAN countries could cooperate to form a maritime force to patrol areas of the South China Sea.
According to Bloomberg, Vice Admiral Robert Thomas said on Tuesday at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition – held in Malaysia following the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (which I covered for The Diplomat here) – that countries could streamline cooperation on maritime security while respecting sovereignty and coastal space, as was the case with counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.
How exactly might these patrols work in practice? Millan mentioned that the concept was not far from the Malacca Strait Patrols (MSP) undertaken by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. The MSP, which began in 2004, is a set of cooperative measures which include air and sea patrols between these countries to tackle piracy. But putting this cooperative structure in place will not be easy. As Millan noted, such a program would need to be governed by some sort of collaborative mechanism or standard operating procedure. There are also lingering questions about how the various countries can work together when it comes to effectively sharing equipment and intelligence. Contending claims in the South China Sea may also make patrolling some areas a rather turbulent affair.
Full article: ASEAN Patrols in the South China Sea? (The Diplomat)