Freedom of navigation on the world’s oceans is a key pillar of the established international order. But in recent decades, this concept — infused with deep historical and legal roots in the early exploration and navigation of the oceans—has undergone major evolution, from restrictions on maritime commerce during the two world wars to environmentally-motivated restrictions on high-seas fishing. Against the backdrop of China’s assertion of expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea — itself a part of Beijing’s growing willingness to contest the terms of international order — the governance of the world’s oceans has emerged as an open question with significant economic, environmental, and military ramifications.
On March 31, the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion on the challenges of governing the oceans and the future of the law of the seas.
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