Indo-Pacific View

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the Indo-Pacific Defense FORUM’s issue on maritime security.

As this is the first edition since I assumed command of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, I want to highlight the importance of publications like this one. As the title suggests, this is a forum for people of like-minded nations to share ideas that address some of the many challenges in this theater. In this Partnering for Peace edition, you will see the collaborative methods to meet these challenges are founded on a values-based approach. This is fundamental to ensuring the continuation of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.  

The emphasis on maritime security highlights the importance of the Indo-Pacific theater. Its oceans, seas and waterways sustain our way of life and must be protected for all to share equally, responsibly and according to a rules-based order. This happens by building greater interoperability, information-sharing capabilities, domain awareness, and expanding cooperation with allies and partners. The United States is collaborating with like-minded people and governments to strengthen regional security institutions and reinforce an open and effective security architecture where all nations — large and small — have an equal voice and a forum for those voices to be heard. 

The opening feature of this issue examines the global leadership role Indo-Pacific nations play in maritime cooperation through the lens of counterpiracy operations. Communities of states, civic organizations, and private industries in the region have joined forces to combat the threats of piracy and armed robbery at sea that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Other key articles highlight how Southeast Asian nations are stiffening their resistance to the persistent coercion and aggression in the South China Sea, which threatens their maritime sovereignty and freedom of navigation. Southeast Asian nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam are sensibly using diplomatic levers to counter excessive claims to the resources of the sea and valuable trade routes. A pair of articles analyzes the U.S. alternatives to China’s One Belt, One Road initiative and assess China’s financial capacity to achieve such ambitious transformation.

A final series of articles on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing reveals the urgency for Indo-Pacific nations to generate a coordinated, international, and strategic response to this mounting threat. As China grows its distant-water fishing fleet, our response must take the vastness of this theater into account, from waters off neighboring nations such as Japan to those off shores as far away as Ecuador. IUU not only threatens resource sustainability and equity but also is inexorably linked to trafficking, drug smuggling, and other maritime crimes. 

I commend our authors in this edition for proposing novel and innovative solutions to combat the many maritime security challenges facing the region. I hope these articles encourage regional conversations on maritime security, and I welcome your comments. Please contact FORUM staff at ipdf@ipdefenseforum.com to share your thoughts.

All the best,

J.C. AQUILINO

Admiral, U.S. Navy

Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

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