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Cooperative monitoring in the South China Sea

satellite imagery, confidence-building measures, and the Spratly Islands disputes


A fortuitous result of the emerging information age is that new instruments for supporting conflict prevention and resolution are becoming widely available. This book examines how a new information technology -- commercial observation satellites capable of collecting high-resolution images -- could be used to mitigate the risk of regional conflict arising from the territorial disputes over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Although information technologies are unlikely to resolve the complex sovereignty disputes over the Spratlys, they do offer diplomats and defense planners a potentially important instrument for reducing the risk that political competition for the Spratlys will inadvertently escalate into armed conflict. Commercial and civilian satellite imagery also could provide a basis for greater cooperation on regional problems, such as monitoring environmental problems or combating maritime piracy, where the littoral states of the South China Sea have common interests despite their other political disagreements.