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Thayer Consultancy Background Brief

ABN # 65 648 097 123

South China Sea: Who Are the
‘Parties Concerned’ in Joint
Military Exercises?
August 7, 2018

We seek clarification of your article “A Closer Look at the ASEAN-China Single Draft
South China Sea Code of Conduct,” The Diplomat, August 3, 2018.
You quote a point inserted by China (point four) as follows: “The Parties shall not hold
joint military exercises with countries from outside the region, unless the parties
concerned are notified beforehand and express no objection (emphasis added).”
What does "parties concerned " mean--the parties involved in the exercises--or any of
the parties that have a concern?
ANSWER: I have no guidance what China meant by “parties concerned’ other than the
wording of the text. Chins considers the United States as outside country.
What I surmise is that in the Spratly islands, where occupied features are in close
proximity to each other, China does not want one of the littoral states (parties
concerned) to invite countries (U.S.) from outside the region to conduct military
exercises without prior notification. In such case, to take an example, if China felt its
security was threatened (or had concerns) it could object.
The background to my interpretation arises from China’s draft Code of Conduct in the
South China Sea tabled in March 2000. Point 9 states: “Refrain from conducting any
military exercises directed against other countries in the Nansha Islands and their
adjacent waters and from carrying out any dangerous and close-in military
reconnaissance. Military patrol activities in the area shall be restricted.”

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “South China Sea: Who Are the ‘Parties
Concerned’ in Joint Military Exercises?,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, August
7, 2018. All background briefs are posted on (search for Thayer). To
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Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and
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registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.