The Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at U.S. Naval War College (NWC) and the Korea Maritime Institute (KMI) hosted a workshop designed to seek paths to East Asian regional security, Feb. 23-24.

Representatives from both institutions as well as attendees from Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Great Britain and Ireland discussed aspects of security, commerce, fisheries and a host of other issues that affect the region.

“The workshop’s ultimate goal is building a stronger relationship with our Korean partners,” said Army Maj. Jason Coats, NWC military professor and organizer of the event. “This is part of our effort to have a frequent dialogue on maritime and security issues going on around the Korean peninsula and more broadly with the Asia-Pacific region.”

This critical region of the globe is facing security issues, according to conference attendee Keun-Gwan Lee, professor of international law at Seoul International University, South Korea.

“In East Asia and areas surrounding Korea, there are many issues including the rise of China,” said Lee. “On the Korean peninsula, there are also issues. North Korea has a nuclear program, which is causing huge problems not only for South Korea but also for the United States. And even between Korea and Japan [there are issues]. So you can say now this very important area is full of problems for maritime security.

“We are here at the workshop to study these issues and compare and analyze to maybe find viable solutions to these complex problems.”

Coats agreed that there are important issues in the region.

“We conducted discussions on the Korean freedom of navigation and sovereignty issues and the efforts we are putting into assisting promotion and enforcement of those freedoms and sovereignty lines,” said Coats. “The disputes present in the Korean Peninsula maritime region are complex and have very deep historical roots. These issues are indeed difficult to fully understand and greater still to work toward solutions.”

Working with KMI was also an important part of trying to reach solutions.

“KMI was an ideal institution with which to partner and strengthen a pre-existing relationship,” said Coats. “Professor James Kraska, the NWC Howard S. Levie chair of international law as well as research director for the Stockton Center, has participated many times in KMI-hosted events in Busan, South Korea.

“KMI is the leading adviser for the South Korean government for development of national policy for maritime security and commerce. They are a world class research and academic institution.”

The workshop is part of an ongoing series of interactions with different areas that are designed to maintain ongoing dialogue with U.S. partners.

“Previous workshops sponsored by NWC include examining the Arctic, the Mediterranean, and other regions,” said Coats. “The Stockton Center and NWC recently partnered with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Command and Staff College last fall in Tokyo for similar discussions regarding their maritime security concerns.”

By Daniel L. Kuester, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs