ASP CEO Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (ret.) recently published a paper as part of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy’s paper series on Maritime Dispute Resolution and the Future of the Asian Order. In his paper, titled ‘Avoiding Another Crisis in the West Pacific,’ Cheney argues that the resolution of the maritime boundary dispute between Australia and Timor Leste can serve as a model for future dispute resolution. Speaking on the potential of a peaceful resolution to set an example moving forward, he writes
“It would shape current and future boundary disputes in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, or situations like the Liancourt Rocks dispute between Japan and South Korea. It would also set the precedent of a larger, more powerful country accepting the needs of its much smaller neighbor, increasing its soft power, and serving as an example for others to follow.”
The conflict hinges on access to an off-shore oil field between the two countries. Under the likely agreement for resolution, the resolution would be resolved in favor of Timor Leste, a country whose government relies heavily on oil to fund its budget. Under the agreement, Cheney notes that Australia stands to gain a lot as well: it gains a strong moral footing by solidifying its relationship with Timor Leste, it decreases the likelihood of future Australian military intervention in the country, and it helps align friendly countries in the region to respond to more aggressive maritime nations, such as China.
The situation in the Western Pacific is further complicated by the destabilizing effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, climate migration, and an undue economic burden are shaping up to be problematic, a maritime dispute notwithstanding. Even so, the peaceful resolution between Australia and Timor Leste provides a good model for the world on future security issues in the region.
Read Avoiding Another Crisis in the West Pacific in full.