Mark J. Valencia

Mark J. Valencia

Dr Mark J. Valencia is an internationally known maritime policy analyst, political commentator and consultant focused on Asia. He is the author or editor of some 15 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. Currently he is adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

Latest from Mark J. Valencia

Opinion | US and China are flirting with disaster as the chance of South China Sea conflict rises

As China’s power expands, the South China Sea has become a frontier of military friction with US and allied forces. The two powers have avoided a head-on collision so far, but this could just be a lull before the military storm.

As China’s power expands, the South China Sea has become a frontier of military friction with US and allied forces. The two powers have avoided a head-on collision so far, but this could just be a lull before the military storm.

5 Jan 2022 - 8:45AM
Opinion | Beijing’s hard approach in the South China Sea could cost it soft power gains in Southeast Asia

China’s enforcement of its historic nine-dash line claim casts doubt over assurances that it will not seek dominance over Southeast Asian states, threatening the progress it has made in the region – and playing right into the hands of the US.

China’s enforcement of its historic nine-dash line claim casts doubt over assurances that it will not seek dominance over Southeast Asian states, threatening the progress it has made in the region – and playing right into the hands of the US.

11 Dec 2021 - 3:58AM
Opinion | South China Sea should top the list for US-China ‘guardrails’

The road to agreement on this needed safeguard to prevent a clash will be long and tortuous, but worthwhile. An incidents-at-sea agreement similar to the US-Soviet pact reached during the Cold War should be pursued.

The road to agreement on this needed safeguard to prevent a clash will be long and tortuous, but worthwhile. An incidents-at-sea agreement similar to the US-Soviet pact reached during the Cold War should be pursued.

30 Nov 2021 - 8:45AM
Opinion | South China Sea: can China-Asean code of conduct talks secure a new international maritime order?

China hopes to forge a new model of ocean governance that integrates existing and evolving norms, but that will be easier said than done, given the numerous sticking points.

China hopes to forge a new model of ocean governance that integrates existing and evolving norms, but that will be easier said than done, given the numerous sticking points.

22 Nov 2021 - 7:17AM
Opinion | South China Sea: Asean must stand up to the US and China to preserve its centrality

The primary players in the South China Sea dispute say they support Asean centrality, but their actions tell a different story. The US and its partners have asserted themselves in part because they felt Asean was ineffective in dealing with regional security issues.

The primary players in the South China Sea dispute say they support Asean centrality, but their actions tell a different story. The US and its partners have asserted themselves in part because they felt Asean was ineffective in dealing with regional security issues.

2 Nov 2021 - 11:50AM
Opinion | Irresponsible US submarine exercises threaten South China Sea health and safety

The USS Connecticut incident is the latest in a number of accidents involving nuclear-powered submarines. An incident that releases radiation could destroy fisheries that provide food stocks on which much of the region relies.

The USS Connecticut incident is the latest in a number of accidents involving nuclear-powered submarines. An incident that releases radiation could destroy fisheries that provide food stocks on which much of the region relies.

14 Oct 2021 - 9:15AM
Opinion | Caught between China and the US, Asean must be louder and brasher about peace

Most Southeast Asian countries have traditionally preferred not to have to choose between the US and China. But with US-driven security partnerships potentially endangering peace, particularly in the South China Sea, Asean should speak up and ask both sides to restrain themselves.

Most Southeast Asian countries have traditionally preferred not to have to choose between the US and China. But with US-driven security partnerships potentially endangering peace, particularly in the South China Sea, Asean should speak up and ask both sides to restrain themselves.

7 Oct 2021 - 9:15AM
Opinion | South China Sea: the US is putting the military cart before the diplomatic horse

Freedom of navigation operations are not necessary to bolster the US’ legal position. Diplomacy is the usual response of other nations, and it is far more consistent with the UN Charter.

Freedom of navigation operations are not necessary to bolster the US’ legal position. Diplomacy is the usual response of other nations, and it is far more consistent with the UN Charter.

17 Sep 2021 - 9:15AM
Opinion | How the US can avoid another foreign policy failure – in Southeast Asia

US strategy to enlist Southeast Asia in containing China by supporting their South China Sea claims against China is based on false premises and wishful thinking. To truly build trust, the US needs to put Southeast Asia’s interests on a par with its own.

US strategy to enlist Southeast Asia in containing China by supporting their South China Sea claims against China is based on false premises and wishful thinking. To truly build trust, the US needs to put Southeast Asia’s interests on a par with its own.

6 Sep 2021 - 1:30AM
Opinion | Amid US-China brinkmanship, have relations reached the point of no return?

There are three areas where unilateral action could trigger war – Taiwan, the East China Sea and South China Sea. The danger in the South China Sea is that the red lines are ambiguous, leaving the US and China stuck in a circle of geopolitical and military gamesmanship.

There are three areas where unilateral action could trigger war – Taiwan, the East China Sea and South China Sea. The danger in the South China Sea is that the red lines are ambiguous, leaving the US and China stuck in a circle of geopolitical and military gamesmanship.

14 Aug 2021 - 2:09AM
Opinion | South China Sea: why report on Chinese boats dumping sewage doesn’t hold water

The report concludes too much based on remote sensing, without confirming its findings with on-site observation. The suggestion that damage to the coral threatens the food security of coastal states is based on unproven assumptions about the Spratlys as a genetic ‘savings bank’.

The report concludes too much based on remote sensing, without confirming its findings with on-site observation. The suggestion that damage to the coral threatens the food security of coastal states is based on unproven assumptions about the Spratlys as a genetic ‘savings bank’.

28 Jul 2021 - 9:15AM
Opinion | South China Sea: why drones are best kept out of freedom of navigation operations

A recent commentary on a website specialising the national security issues argued in favour of using drones in freedom of navigation operations. However, drones are an inviting target for capture or destruction because they may not have sovereign immunity, increasing the risk of warfare.

A recent commentary on a website specialising the national security issues argued in favour of using drones in freedom of navigation operations. However, drones are an inviting target for capture or destruction because they may not have sovereign immunity, increasing the risk of warfare.

13 Jul 2021 - 12:55PM
Opinion | China needs to adjust its diplomatic approach to win the battle for Southeast Asia and the South China Sea

Asean defence ministers’ focus on China’s behaviour suggests that if China does not recalibrate its approach, it might lose diplomatic ground. With recent conciliatory moves towards Indonesia, Beijing has shown it can repair its diplomatic damage.

Asean defence ministers’ focus on China’s behaviour suggests that if China does not recalibrate its approach, it might lose diplomatic ground. With recent conciliatory moves towards Indonesia, Beijing has shown it can repair its diplomatic damage.

23 Jun 2021 - 2:25PM
Opinion | Malaysia’s airspace ‘violation’ row with China highlights confusing military overflight rules

The US unilaterally established a precedent for air defence identification zones. But being first does not justify dictating the rules for all nations, especially in the absence of an international agreement.

The US unilaterally established a precedent for air defence identification zones. But being first does not justify dictating the rules for all nations, especially in the absence of an international agreement.

9 Jun 2021 - 9:10AM
Opinion | US-China race for surveillance supremacy in South China Sea risks a needless clash

China is catching up but still can’t match the US’ network of spy planes, surface vessels, submarines, satellites, and drones. In the process, both are testing the bounds of existing international law and increasing the likelihood of confrontation.

China is catching up but still can’t match the US’ network of spy planes, surface vessels, submarines, satellites, and drones. In the process, both are testing the bounds of existing international law and increasing the likelihood of confrontation.

14 May 2021 - 10:53AM
Opinion | South China Sea tensions need to be cooled down, not hyped up

The situation calls for cool heads to prevail among all countries, and especially from decision-makers and supposedly objective analysts. Hyperbole only plays into the hands of those who want confrontation and conflict.

The situation calls for cool heads to prevail among all countries, and especially from decision-makers and supposedly objective analysts. Hyperbole only plays into the hands of those who want confrontation and conflict.

30 Apr 2021 - 9:15AM
Opinion | South China Sea: US-China rivalry leaves Whitsun Reef and the Philippines in deep and dangerous waters

A Sino-Philippine row over a remote Spratlys reef has drawn in the US and its allies, greatly raising the geopolitical stakes in a worrying game of chicken.

A Sino-Philippine row over a remote Spratlys reef has drawn in the US and its allies, greatly raising the geopolitical stakes in a worrying game of chicken.

15 Apr 2021 - 1:56AM
Opinion | In the South China Sea, Biden is outdoing Trump in bluff and bluster

The Alaska meeting makes it clear the US will continue to try to blunt China’s rise and cement US hegemony in Asia. In the South China Sea, its continuing strategy of demanding China abide by its interpretation of UNCLOS while refusing to ratify it can only fail.

The Alaska meeting makes it clear the US will continue to try to blunt China’s rise and cement US hegemony in Asia. In the South China Sea, its continuing strategy of demanding China abide by its interpretation of UNCLOS while refusing to ratify it can only fail.

29 Mar 2021 - 8:38AM
Opinion | With its support for US strategy, France is playing with fire in the South China Sea

France appears generally supportive of US strategy in the region, which invites China’s economic, political and possibly military wrath. Despite French denials, the actions of its military may well be interpreted as hostile by Beijing, and French businesses invested in China should be worried.

France appears generally supportive of US strategy in the region, which invites China’s economic, political and possibly military wrath. Despite French denials, the actions of its military may well be interpreted as hostile by Beijing, and French businesses invested in China should be worried.

13 Mar 2021 - 11:44AM
Opinion | South China Sea: Biden has a chance to allow diplomacy to lead instead of military action

Putting the military cart before the diplomatic horse only begets tit-for-tat responses from China that increase militarisation and frighten Southeast Asian countries

Putting the military cart before the diplomatic horse only begets tit-for-tat responses from China that increase militarisation and frighten Southeast Asian countries

3 Mar 2021 - 12:21PM
Opinion | East China Sea: how China and Japan can begin to resolve the Diaoyu Islands dispute

Japan should acknowledge there is a legitimate sovereignty dispute, and that the features cannot be used to justify exclusive economic zone or continental shelf claims. In exchange, China could tacitly accept Japan’s temporary administration of the features.

Japan should acknowledge there is a legitimate sovereignty dispute, and that the features cannot be used to justify exclusive economic zone or continental shelf claims. In exchange, China could tacitly accept Japan’s temporary administration of the features.

16 Feb 2021 - 10:28AM
Opinion | Biden must rethink US approach to the South China Sea. Early signs are not promising

The Biden administration has a chance to forge stability in the South China Sea and undo the damage of Trump’s ‘America first’ policy. But, so far, there has been no indication of a softening of the US approach to China.

The Biden administration has a chance to forge stability in the South China Sea and undo the damage of Trump’s ‘America first’ policy. But, so far, there has been no indication of a softening of the US approach to China.

18 Feb 2021 - 11:16AM
Opinion | US and its allies must be wary of provoking South China Sea conflict over freedom of navigation

For China, the disputed waters are a historically vulnerable underbelly that must be turned into a natural shield for national security. Beijing feels cornered, and the presence of allies’ navies in US-led operations will only exacerbate the feeling.

For China, the disputed waters are a historically vulnerable underbelly that must be turned into a natural shield for national security. Beijing feels cornered, and the presence of allies’ navies in US-led operations will only exacerbate the feeling.

1 Jan 2021 - 4:50AM
Opinion | US-China relations: Southeast Asia cannot afford another neocolonial great power rivalry

A new great power contest would be a disaster for Southeast Asian states which struggle to maintain autonomy and prefer to selectively follow the wishes of bigger powers.

A new great power contest would be a disaster for Southeast Asian states which struggle to maintain autonomy and prefer to selectively follow the wishes of bigger powers.

18 Dec 2020 - 9:11AM
Opinion | Why Trump’s Pentagon reshuffle is unlikely to raise the China war risk

US military chiefs have played down any risk of radical action with China and many think the reshuffle is to fulfil Trump’s vow to bring troops in Afghanistan home. China is also unlikely to rise to provocations.

US military chiefs have played down any risk of radical action with China and many think the reshuffle is to fulfil Trump’s vow to bring troops in Afghanistan home. China is also unlikely to rise to provocations.

23 Nov 2020 - 1:17AM
Opinion | Pompeo’s failure to turn Asia against China should be a wake-up call for US policy hawks

Asian nations prize their independence and do not want to take sides in a great power competition not of their making. They, too, take issue with some aspects of US behaviour, and sense that Washington may not have their interests and needs at heart.

Asian nations prize their independence and do not want to take sides in a great power competition not of their making. They, too, take issue with some aspects of US behaviour, and sense that Washington may not have their interests and needs at heart.

4 Nov 2020 - 9:38AM
Opinion | The US is testing China’s red lines in the South China Sea. What does it hope to achieve?

The US seems to be pushing China to stand down from its claims and occupations or defend them militarily. This ‘put up or shut up’ strategy is risky – unless confrontation really is the aim.

The US seems to be pushing China to stand down from its claims and occupations or defend them militarily. This ‘put up or shut up’ strategy is risky – unless confrontation really is the aim.

24 Oct 2020 - 2:47AM
Opinion | South China Sea: If US spy planes were posing as airliners, it must explain why

Using a false civilian cover for spy planes may not be illegal but is dangerous and risks a major international incident. On this and undersea drones, the US owes the world more than studied silence.

Using a false civilian cover for spy planes may not be illegal but is dangerous and risks a major international incident. On this and undersea drones, the US owes the world more than studied silence.

2 Oct 2020 - 5:32AM
Opinion | Can Asean dance its way out of having to take sides in the US-China conflict?

As US-China tensions mount, Southeast Asian countries will need some fancy footwork to preserve Asean’s unity and centrality in deciding regional issues.

As US-China tensions mount, Southeast Asian countries will need some fancy footwork to preserve Asean’s unity and centrality in deciding regional issues.

12 Nov 2020 - 6:39PM
Opinion | South China Sea: how the US can head off an ugly showdown with China

Amid heightened US-China tensions, the best scenario involves negotiations and power sharing. In the worst case, a clash leaves the region a cold-war zone, drives away energy firms, and possibly splits Asean. Unless the US is ready for war, it must learn to accommodate China

Amid heightened US-China tensions, the best scenario involves negotiations and power sharing. In the worst case, a clash leaves the region a cold-war zone, drives away energy firms, and possibly splits Asean. Unless the US is ready for war, it must learn to accommodate China

31 Aug 2020 - 6:23AM