The U.S.-China Incidents at Sea Agreement: A Recipe for Disaster

Nearly a decade of dangerous incidents between U.S. and Soviet naval forces laid the groundwork for the negotiation and signing of the Incidents at Sea (INCSEA) Agreement in 1972.  Citing the successes and benefits of INCSEA and the growing number of dangerous encounters between U.S. and Chinese forces in the Western Pacific over the past decade, experts in Beijing and Washington have increasingly argued that the time has come for the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to enter into a similar agreement.  Although an INCSEA agreement could, in theory, reduce the possibility of miscalculation during un-alerted sea encounters between U.S. and Chinese naval and air forces, there are many reasons that the United States should not pursue such an arrangement.

Lead Author

Pete Pedrozo
U.S. Navy (Ret.), professor of international law, U.S. Naval War College, former Staff Judge Advocate for the U.S. Pacific Command. Captain Pedrozo also served as a Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy during the negotiations of the U.S.-PRC Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (MMCA) and as legal advisor during investigations under the MMCA.
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