The South China Sea is a region of immense geopolitical importance, with many different countries advancing competing territorial and maritime claims in a vital economic and strategic waterway. China’s maritime claims have been a source of tension and conflict with other nations, particularly those Southeast Asian nations whose maritime rights under the international law of the sea overlap with China’s maritime claims.
The China Program at Shornstein APARC brings you this expert session, featuring the State Department Assistant Legal Adviser Robert Harris, who will examine China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, including the evolution and legal basis for these claims and their implications for regional security and stability.
We will also explore the role of international law in resolving disputes in the region and how actions by the international community, including freedom of navigation exercises, can help articulate and preserve the international law of the sea.
Robert Harris is Assistant Legal Adviser for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, providing legal advice to policymakers on legal issues related to U.S. foreign policy in the Asia and Pacific region. As a senior career lawyer at the Department of State, he has served as legal adviser and as head of delegation to more than 100 different bilateral and multilateral negotiations on a wide array of issues and international agreements, including international migration, trade in services and commercial air services, international law enforcement (e.g., counterterrorism, drug trafficking, and the extradition of fugitives), maritime boundary delimitation, transboundary watercourses, the international law of the sea, including marine pollution and ocean dumping, global environment protection (including control of hazardous chemicals, biological diversity, and international conservation), sustainable development, international human rights and refugees, nuclear liability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He is a lecturer of law on international law and the law of the sea at Columbia Law School. He is a graduate of Cornell University (AB History), the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (MPA), and Stanford Law School (JD).
Laura Stone, a member of the U.S. Department of State, is the Inaugural China Policy Fellow for the 2022-2023 academic year at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC). She was formerly Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Maldives, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for China and Mongolia, the Director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs, and the Director of the Economic Policy Office in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs. She served in Hanoi, Beijing, Bangkok, Tokyo, the Public Affairs Bureau, the Pentagon Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. While at APARC, she is conducting research with the China Program on contemporary China affairs and U.S.-China policy.