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New Report Warns of Clashes at Sea in Asia

SYDNEY, June 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Risks are growing that maritime incidents involving China could lead to war: this is a stark conclusion of a major new report from Australian think tank the Lowy Institute.

The report warns that risk-taking behaviour by Chinese naval and auxiliary forces, combined with Asia's lack of 'confidence-building measures', adds up to real possibilities of diplomatic crisis and armed confrontation drawing in the United States and other powers. The trouble is concentrated on the South and East China seas, but tensions could eventually reach across the Indo-Pacific region.

"There is an urgent need to improve and actually use communications channels between the Chinese and other militaries," says principal author Rory Medcalf.

"Current posturing in the South China Sea may be easing, thanks to talks involving China, America and Vietnam.

"But the drivers of crisis remain. These include over-confidence, national pride, resource pressures, sovereignty disputes and frictions between Chinese and US military strategies, which rely on long-range patrols and close surveillance."

Mr. Medcalf, a former Australian diplomat and intelligence analyst, now director of Lowy's international security program, said that the cause of each incident usually remained a mystery. China's reluctance to allow continuous channels of communication with foreign forces at sea meant it was hard to tell if an incident was an accident, the work of an over-zealous officer, or an assertive act of policy. And it seemed some non-military entities, like fisheries and survey agencies, were pushing assertive agendas.

"One glimmer of hope is the submerged debate among Chinese security thinkers – some genuinely worry about incidents leading to conflict. But moderates will find it hard to get attention once any shooting starts."

The report, to be launched in Canberra on June 28, is based on consultations with security experts and practitioners in China, Japan, the United States and India.

Crisis and Confidence: Major Powers and Maritime Security in Indo-Pacific Asia is published under the Lowy Institute's partnership with the Asia Security Initiative of the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation. It was written by Rory Medcalf and Australian National University scholar Raoul Heinrichs, with Lowy Naval Fellow Justin Jones.

The report can be accessed here: http://www.lowyinstitute.org/Publication.asp?pid=1618.

For more information, please contact:
Rory Medcalf at rmedcalf@lowyinstitute.org or on + 61 417 799278

Follow his commentary on twitter @Rory_Medcalf

SOURCE Lowy Institute for International Policy



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