Asian Maritime Strategies: Navigating Troubled Waters

Economic and technological changes are shrinking the Asian maritime commons. Cole reports that most of the littoral countries are building up their navies and coast guards. Lesser powers have acquired submarines and advanced tactical aircraft, although they seldom have clear strategies for using such technologies. Meanwhile, the region’s big powers must confront strategic dilemmas, including an increasing risk of accidents and clashes. The United States might not be able to maintain its dominance of Asian waters if it also insists on keeping up its deployments elsewhere. Japan’s navy takes second place to its coast guard when it comes to defending the country’s maritime interests because the constitution and public opinion limit the use of explicitly military forces. The Indian navy remains a budgetary stepchild of land and air forces that focus on Pakistan, even as India sees growing competition from China in its home ocean. For its part, China faces so many security challenges in its near seas that it might not be able to develop what it really wants: a “blue-water navy,” which would be able to project power in distant seas. 

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