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Maritime Security Politics and Ocean Governance in East Asia and the Pacific


Admission requirements

Admission to the Master International Relations. Other students who are interested in this course, please contact the co-ordinator of studies.


This course considers the evolving role that the ocean has been playing in international politics since technological progress, commercial and military interests, and scientific curiosity started driving people farther onto and into East Asian seas. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), negotiated in the 1970s and 1980s, was meant to become a comprehensive ‘Constitution for the Oceans’ for the governing of the multiple users and multiple uses of the world’s seas. Yet, problems related to ocean governance and maritime security are increasing in salience. Particularly in East Asia and the Pacific, maritime security concerns have become the main determinants of international politics. Thus, this course is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to analyze, critique and evaluate key themes in contemporary debates surrounding the East Asian and Pacific maritime sphere. Students will learn how governments came to think about developing the ocean and why they strive to control increasing shares of maritime space through the enlargement of state territories and the expansion of geopolitically defined spheres of influence. In doing so, students will be familiarized with conceptual tools of International Law, International Relations and Political Geography, and learn how to apply these to key issues in the contemporary international relations of East Asia and the Pacific. The course also aims to connect East Asian affairs to broader debates and issues of global (ocean) governance.

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

1) Demonstrate basic knowledge of the law of the sea and understand its uses in East Asian cases of maritime territorial and navigational disputes;
2) Critically reflect on the differences and commonalities in how governments approach maritime security affairs;
3) Explain the particular relationship between nationalism, that is national identity, and maritime security politics;
4) Demonstrate awareness of the political nature of cartography and the ability to critically reflect on the drivers of geopolitical discourses;
5) Describe the main features of existing multilateral frameworks of marine governance and grasp the major challenges to global (ocean) governance as exemplified in East Asia and the Pacific;
6) Conduct supervised research on maritime affairs.


See the timetable

Mode of instruction

Lecture, seminar style discussion and supervised research.

Course Load

  • 24 Hours of classes (attendance is compulsory)

  • 96 hours of close reading (8 hours per week over 12 weeks)

  • 48 hours for research proposal and presentation.

  • 100 hours for research paper.

  • 12 hours for regulative activities; meeting with fellow students and teacher; and hours surrounding classes.

Total course load for this 10 EC course is 10 × 28 hours = 280 hours.

Assessment method

  • Prepare the assigned readings prior to each class and participate fully in the discussions through informed and reflective contributions;

  • Submit a complete and coherent proposal for a research paper, and effectively communicate your ideas through a presentation and subsequent Q&A session in class;

  • Submit a research paper that contributes to academic debates on maritime politics and ocean governance in East Asia and the Pacific.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average according to the following:

  • Participation: 20%

  • Proposal and presentation of the proposal: 30%

  • End of term paper: 50%.


The resit is only available to students whose mark of the final examined element is insufficient.


Blackboard will be used for this course. Please enroll in blackboard after your enrolment in uSis.

Reading list

The readings will be announced in the full syllabus. Students are asked to access them electronically via the library or, if only available in print, consult the course reserve shelf, code ALCOL17-19, at the Asian Library. For the preparation of the introductory class, students are expected to read the following articles: Christensen, Thomas J., ‘China, the US-Japan Alliance, and the Security Dilemma in East Asia,’ International Security, Vol. 23, No. 4 (1999): 49-80; Acharya, Amitav, ‘Will Asia’s Past Be Its Future?’ International Security Vol. 28, No. 3 (2003): 149-164; Hamilton-Hart, Natasha, ‘War and Other Insecurities in East Asia: What the Security Studies Field Does and Does Not Tell Us’, The Pacific Review Vol. 22, No. 1 (2009): 49-71; Cox, Robert W., ‘Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations,’ Millennium - Journal of International Studies Vol. 10, No. 2 (1981): 126-155.


Via uSis


Dr. C. Wirth