In the modern era, states are more likely to fight over contested territory than any other issue that divides them. Asia today accounts for thirty-eight percent of all territorial disputes worldwide. Many of Asia’s territorial disputes involve offshore islands, such as the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Complicating matters, the vast majority of Asia’s maritime boundaries are contested. Taken together, the mix of disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime boundaries highlights the importance of conflict prevention in Asia’s maritime domain.
This project seeks to understand what states want in these maritime disputes, why they can so easily escalate, and how they can be managed or even resolved in order to prevent conflict. The successful management of these disputes will remove or at least significantly reduce the single greatest source of tension among states in Asia that could escalate into armed conflict or even war.