On October 7th & 8th, the Patterson School and the Army War College participated in the annual negotiation exercise. This exercise consisted of several countries working together to overcome issues facing the South China Sea. The countries that participated in this simulation were the United States, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Japan.
The simulation began as confronting Chinese aggression in the region. China, contrary to international law, claimed the Paracel and Spratly Islands as their own, which caused tensions among its neighbors. China’s neighbors heavily relied upon countries residing outside the South China Sea—the United States and Japan—to counter China’s aggression, and as a result, the United States was able to draft a massive multilateral agreement on principle that included intertwining of the economies, planning of joint military exercises, establishing an exclusion zone around the contested islands, and affirming that any and all contested claims to the islands would be settled within the ASEAN coalition at a future date.
The United States realized its role was to simply push back against China’s agenda in the South China Sea while enforcing international law and the freedom of navigation, and the United States utilized its relationship with the smaller Asian nations to do so. As a result, the United States was able to not only address each nation’s concerns relating to China, but the United States was also able to establish further economic and military ties that resulted in less reliance on the Chinese.
Of course, the Chinese delegation did everything it could to prevent this multilateral agreement from forming, and perhaps their most clever strategy was setting up meetings with all delegations with the intention of not following through on any of the planned outcomes arising from these meetings. For example, in its second meeting with the United States, China proposed a “green deal,” which included details on tackling climate change and global warming. When asked how China could propose such an agreement given China was the number one polluter in the world, China could not provide an adequate response—indicating China’s intention of simply stalling the multilateral agreement. The United States used this discovery against the Chinese delegation and pressed into the multilateral agreement by informing the smaller Asian nations of China’s true intentions: to prevent progress from taking place at this Summit and continue its aggression in the South China Sea. Ultimately, the Chinese delegation’s tactic failed as the United States was able to secure the multilateral agreement within the last hour of the simulation. Once all nations involved signed the agreement, the United States had achieved its overall goal: to push China back from its illegal claims and unfounded aggression.
When the United States finally personally presented this multilateral agreement to China, the two Heads of Delegation met one-on-one in the presence of three mentors. The United States intended for the meeting to be short—simply layout the foundations of the four-part agreement and to inform China that the United States would working with the other Asian nations to counter China’s objectives. However, the United States and China quickly found themselves in a shouting match that resulted in the Head of the United States’ delegation enforcing his position by shoving his finger into the Head of the Chinese delegation’s shoulder. As he did so, the Head of the United States’ delegation stated that this was the future China should have foreseen and that China needed to face the consequences of its actions. Shortly after the encounter, the Head of the Chinese delegation walked through the halls, shouting that the United States had assaulted the Chinese delegation. The Head of the Chinese delegation filed a complaint to the United Nations, and the United Nations Special Representative met individually with both Heads as part of his investigation into the incident. However, with these meetings falling so close to the end of the simulation, the UN Special Representative did not formally reprimand the quarreling Heads.
The simulation officially ended when the Heads of each delegation gave their closing remarks. Because every country apart from China had agreed to the multilateral agreement on principle, their closing remarks were quite similar and spoke of immense cooperation with the United States and Japan. China, however, did not echo that sentiment. The Head of the Chinese delegation, in a homemade sling to emphasize the alleged assault, gave his closing remarks, and his remarks reflected a sense of betrayal from its neighbors as well as open hostility to the United States. Despite China’s attempt to gain favor from its neighbors, the United States and other Asian nations enforced international law and illustrated a united front against China and its aggression in the region.
In essence, the goal of the simulation was to resolve the dispute diplomatically, and while tensions rose over the two days, students were able to work together to form firm, yet reasonable, solutions facing the South China Sea.
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