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Disarmament and International Security Committee.

The Disarmament and International Security committee deals with disarmament, global challenges and threats to peace that affect the international community and seeks out solutions to the challenges in the international security regime.


China's expanding role in Asia-Pacific region

Letter from the Executive Board

Dear delegates,
Welcome to DISEC. The Executive Board hopes that this background guide serves as a starting point in your research. Please use this study guide as a mere outline of the topics you wish to discuss in committee. Feel free to contact any of us in case of queries. We cannot wait to hear your views on these issues!

Vaishnavee Suriyanarayanan
Email address: vaishnavee7503@gmail.com

Keerthi Vasan
Email address: vaasankeerthi2@gmail.com

About the Committee

The Disarmament and International Security Committee (UNGA-DISEC) is the first committee of the United Nations General Assembly. The First Committee deals with disarmament, global challenges and threats to peace that affect the international community and seeks out solutions to the challenges in the international security regime. It considers all disarmament and international security matters within the scope of the Charter or relating to the powers and functions of any other organ of the United Nations; the general principles of cooperation in the maintenance of international peace and security, as well as principles governing disarmament and the regulation of armaments; promotion of cooperative arrangements and measures aimed at strengthening stability through lower levels of armaments.

Mandate of UNGA-DISEC

The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all members of the United Nations, it provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter. The Assembly meets in regular session intensively from September to December each year, and thereafter as required. The functions and powers of the General Assembly are stipulated in Chapter IV of the Charter of the United Nations. Charter of the United Nations is available here:


The past two decades have witnessed the expansion of China’s global footprint, with special emphasis in the South Pacific region. This development is often perceived to be faster than China’s natural economic and geopolitical clout. It’s important to question China’s ambitions in this region and understand the implications of such a large-scale expansion. Furthermore, using economic and military coercion, the Chinese Communist Party has been bullying its neighboring countries, claiming unlawful territorial control, and threatening maritime shipping lanes. China’s predatory behavior in the Asia-Pacific region largely increases conflict risks. The United States’ withdrawal from this region and its perception of this threat as gradual, rather than immediate, have fueled China’s dramatic rise in this area.

South-China Sea Dispute

For years, China has disputed with several Southeast nations, such as Indonesia, Philippines, and Taiwan, over territorial control in the South China Sea. First, it’s essential to understand the maritime significance of this region.

Significance of South China Sea

The United States Energy Information Agency estimates there are 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in deposits under the sea — more than exists in the reserves of some of the world’s biggest energy exporters.

The waters also contain lucrative fisheries that account for, according to some estimates, 10 percent of the global total. But this means that a lot of fishing boats are cruising around in waters contested by several different navies, increasing the risk of conflict. The area’s greatest value is as a trade route. According to a 2015 Department of Defense report, $5.3 trillion worth of goods moves through the sea every year, which is about 30 percent of global maritime trade. That includes huge amounts of oil and $1.2 trillion worth of annual trade with the United States

The Hague Tribunal - A Case Study

On 22 January 2013, the Philippines instituted arbitral proceedings against China in a dispute concerning their respective “maritime entitlements” and the legality of Chinese activities in the South China Sea. In response, by a diplomatic note dated 19 February 2013 addressed to the Philippines, China expressed its rejection of the arbitration. In China’s view, the Arbitral Tribunal did not have jurisdiction in the case because China’s acceptance of dispute settlement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – the basis put forward by the Philippines – was limited and excluded sea boundary delimitations and the determination of historic titles. Since then, China has continuously refused either to accept or to participate in the arbitral proceedings initiated by the Philippines. The tribunal, however, did not see this as an obstacle: on 29 October 2015, it delivered its first award finding that it had jurisdiction, and, on 12 July 2016, its award deciding on the merits of the dispute.

12 July 2016 Award

The award addresses three main substantive issues: (a) the so-called “nine-dash line” and China’s claim to historic rights in the South China Sea, (b) the status of certain maritime features in the South China Sea and (c) the legality of Chinese activities in the South China Sea. Because of jurisdictional limits, however, the Arbitral Tribunal did not deal with matters related to territorial sovereignty over the disputed maritime features between the parties. That means that the tribunal did not decide who owned the maritime features located in the South China Sea, such as the Spratly Islands, that are claimed by both China and the Philippines or any other coastal state in the region. Similarly, the tribunal did not delimit any maritime boundaries between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea.

Nine-Dash Line

The tribunal dealt with the question whether China’s claims to historic rights within the “nine-dash line” were in conformity with UNCLOS. It first observed that this area – in which China claimed rights, “formed in the long historical course”, to living and non-living resources (i.e. fisheries and petroleum resources) – partially overlaps with areas that would otherwise comprise the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or the continental shelf (CS) of the Philippines. In the view of the tribunal, UNCLOS establishes a comprehensive maritime zones regime and allocates rights in these areas to the coastal state and other states: in the areas of the EEZ and the CS, the coastal state enjoys exclusive sovereign rights to the exploitation of living and non-living natural resources. Concerning the rights of other states in these areas, the tribunal found that UNCLOS does not permit the preservation of historic rights of any state within the EEZ or the CS of another state. Therefore, after its entry into UNCLOS, the historic rights that might have existed for China within the “nine-dash line” in areas that would otherwise include the EEZ or the CS of the Philippines were superseded by the maritime zones regime created by UNCLOS. That means the pre-existing historic rights no longer exist as they are not compatible with UNCLOS. Accordingly, the tribunal concluded that China’s claims were contrary to UNCLOS and exceeded the geographic limits imposed by it.

In a next step, the tribunal determined the legal status of certain maritime features occupied by China in the South China Sea. Determining whether these are “islands", “rocks", “low-tide elevations” (LTEs) or “submerged banks” is important because, unlike fully entitled islands, rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own do not generate an EEZ and a CS. Consequently, rocks do not give rights to resource exploitation beyond their territorial sea. Furthermore, LTEs or submerged banks do not generate any maritime zone. The tribunal found most disputed maritime features not to be capable of generating an EEZ or CS: it classified Scarborough Shoal as a rock, and among those features in the Spratly Islands, it found Mischief Reef, Subi Reef and Second Thomas Shoal to be LTEs, and Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Fiery Cross Reef to be mere rocks. However, contrary to the Philippines’ position, the tribunal concluded that Gaven Reef (North) and McKennan Reef are rocks that are not capable of generating an EEZ or a CS.

The tribunal assessed the status of these features taking into consideration their natural condition, prior to human modifications. In this respect, the Tribunal emphasized that China’s construction of installations and significant reclamation work as well as its maintenance of military or governmental personnel or civilians cannot enhance a feature’s status from rock or a LTE to a fully entitled island capable of generating an EEZ and a CS.

The tribunal also ruled on the legality of activities of Chinese officials and Chinese vessels in the areas of the South China Sea located within the Philippines’ EEZ and CS. It concluded that China breached the provisions of UNCLOS, in particular by (a) temporarily prohibiting fishing in areas of the South China Sea falling within the Philippines’ EEZ, (b) failing to prevent Chinese vessels from fishing in the Philippines’ EEZ at Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal and (c) preventing Filipino fishermen from engaging in traditional fishing at Scarborough Shoal. Regarding China’s construction of artificial islands, installations and structures at Mischief Reef – a LTE which is part of the Philippines’ EEZ and CS – without the authorisation of the Philippines, the tribunal also found China to have violated UNCLOS.

In addition, with respect to the protection and preservation of the marine environment in the South China Sea, the tribunal found that China breached UNCLOS since it failed to prevent fishermen from Chinese flagged vessels from harvesting (a) endangered species on a significant scale and (b) in such a manner as to destroy the coral reef ecosystem. Furthermore, the tribunal held that China’s land reclamation and construction of artificial islands, installations and structures in the Spratly Islands caused severe, irreparable harm to the coral reef ecosystem.


The Philippines welcomed the award, which vindicated most of its claims, and stated that it remained open to negotiate with China. Conversely, China rejected the decision as illegal, null and void and therefore without any binding effect on itself. Other countries, including the United States, Vietnam, Australia and Japan, backed the Philippines and called on China to respect the tribunal’s decision. On the other hand, Cambodia supported China’s non-acceptance of the award. ASEAN members issued a joint communiqué reaffirming the need to avoid actions that might escalate tensions in the South China Sea and to seek the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS.

China’s Expansion Strategies

Theater Strategy

Beijing’s adoption of the ‘String of Pearls’should be viewed as its regional and theater strategy. China is monopolizing strategic choke points in the Indian Ocean region by investing in geopolitically important ports from Hong Kong to Sudan. The String of Pearls quite literally encircles neighboring countries, particularly India. In July 2017, Chinese troops established its first overseas military base in Djibouti.

Operational Strategy

China’s anti access/ area denial (A2/AD) activities comprise its operational level strategy. It is a military operation that aims to prevent an adversary’s access to a territorial region (anti-access) and deny their freedom of movement on the battlefield (area denial).

China has made efforts to develop its effective A2/AD capabilities to deter possible access to its territories by potential adversaries. In particular, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has strengthened its A2/AD capabilities by developing attack aircraft, submarines, mines, missiles, and air and missile defense systems. In response, the US plans to deploy a new weapons system composed of mid-range missiles capable of piecing Beijing’s A2/AD shield in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, Japan has developed its own long-range missile with ranges up to 1,000 kms, meaning they can reach China’s A2/AD sphere.

Tactical Strategy

Beijing is reinforcing its defense capabilities at a tactical level through military Exercises in preparation for possible emergencies stemming from its territorial disputes in areas such as the Taiwan Strait, the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands, and the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands. Some analysts observe China is utilizing a ‘Salami Slicing Tactic’ in its territorial disputes. Chinese military aircraft have frequently flown near the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands and the Miyako Strait.

On February 1, 2021, the Chinese government enacted a new Coast Guard Law permitting the Chinese Coast Guard more flexibility in its use of weapons. On 06 Feb 21, two Chinese Coast Guard vessels entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands and approached within a few hundred meters of a Japanese fishing boat. Similar incidents have occurred almost every week since. In response, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) has argued the country should enact new legislation of its own to effectively counter China’s aggressive tactics. In addition, the Biden administration reaffirmed the US commitment to the defense of disputed islands shortly thereafter.

Risks of China’s Rise

This military expansion poses strategic risks for the United States and its allies and partners. It gives China rapidly increasing capacity to use military coercion in the Indian Ocean region, both directly, through military intervention, and indirectly, by compelling changes in regional states’security policies. It also gives China advantages in case of a potential war in the region