Navigating Unsettled Waters: Introducing the Maritime Awareness Project

On April 14, the National Bureau of Asian Research and Sasakawa USA launched the Maritime Awareness Project (MAP), a new joint initiative to assist policymakers, the press, and interested public in better understanding critical maritime problems and possible routes to their peaceful resolution. MAP features a unique, interactive website encompassing key data at the heart of ongoing maritime disputes as well as related maritime issues. In addition, a group of the world’s top experts on maritime affairs serve as contributors to an ongoing series of analytical papers, online discussions, and MAP seminars and conferences.

This event featured a timely, high-level discussion on competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea as well as on broader security concerns in the maritime domain. Leading maritime experts discussed the complex economic, political, and military stakes affected by the South China Sea disputes. They examined how the dispute will have implications across the maritime domain and offered suggestions on possible ways to mitigate tensions and move toward resolution.




PANEL ONE: Understanding the Complexities of the South China Sea Dispute

PANEL TWO: Traditional and Nontraditional Security Concerns in the Maritime Domain




Rommel Banlaoi, Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research

Dennis Blair, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA

Ja Ian Chong, National University of Singapore

Richard J. Ellings, The National Bureau of Asian Research

M. Taylor Fravel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mikkal Herberg, The National Bureau of Asian Research

Jeffrey Hornung, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA

Nong Hong, Institute for China-America Studies

Karolos J. Karnikis, The National Bureau of Asian Research

Tiffany Ma, The National Bureau of Asian Research

Shafiah F. Muhibat, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Indonesia

Tabitha Mallory, The National Bureau of Asian Research

Justin Nankivell, Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies

Ian J. Storey, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute


The disputed waters of the South China Sea are a vital artery for regional trade. Long a fishing ground for seafarers along its rim and containing fields of hydrocarbon reserves, the sea is also an important resource base for claimant states. Resolution of competing claims and agreement on acceptable activities in surrounding exclusive economic zones remains elusive. Broader competition among regional powers and modernization of regional countries’ navies and coast guard capabilities put additional stress on an already volatile situation. The United States has made clear its interest in maintaining freedom of navigation throughout the world, and finds itself increasingly under pressure by other states—especially those with interests in the South China Sea—to uphold that commitment.

Media Coverage

Former Seventh Fleet Commander Touts Navy’s Role as ‘De-escalator’ in Western Pacific (Seapower, April 15, 2015)

New Maritime Awareness Project Kicks Off With South China Sea Discussion (USNI News, April 14, 2016)