Historic First

As part of the National Committee’s mission to promote high-level exchange and constructive dialogue on sensitive topics, the Committee and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China (MoFA) co-sponsor an annual U.S.-China Track II Dialogue on Maritime Issues & International Law -- the first such ongoing dialogue of its kind. Established in October 2012, the purpose of this dialogue is to convene American and Chinese legal experts to explore the issues surrounding China’s recent maritime disputes and escalated tensions in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea in order to better understand their impact on China’s relationships with its neighbors and U.S.-China relations, while at the same time provide suggestions for improving the management and settlement of current maritime disputes.

2018 U.S.-China Track II Dialogue on Maritime Issues & International Law (China)

January 15, 2018 to January 17, 2018

This round of our maritime track II dialogue was held in Sanya, Hainan Province, China. The American delegation of legal experts was again led by Stephen Orlins, the National Committee’s president, and the Chinese side was chaired by Dr. Wu Shicun, the president of National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS). Accomplished experts on international law and maritime disputes composed both delegations. The two sides met for a day and a half and all participants actively participated in candid and constructive discussions on legal, political and military aspects of China’s maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas. The issues these legal experts focused on included the present status and role of international law in dispute resolution, territorial sovereignty and joint development, the legal and strategic meaning of China’s land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea, maritime jurisdiction and institutionalized dispute resolution approaches as well as security issues in the East and South China Seas. The group continued its discussion of what process or processes might be undertaken to improve the situation in the South China Sea, to avoid crises, and to lead toward resolution of disputes and a mutually acceptable outcome.

Both sides felt the dialogue was significantly productive in advancing mutual understandings of the issues regarding maritime disputes, the U.S.-China relationship, and regional relations of current importance to both China and the United States. More importantly, our participants came up with a list of ideas for managing tensions in this complex relationship that will be recommended to decision-makers on both sides.

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