US shaping operations in Asia Pacific region would be greatly enhanced by US accession to UNCLOS
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In order to be prepared to counter specific threats as they arise across the globe, operational commanders continuously conduct shaping activities in order to give U.S. forces the most favorable operating conditions across the spectrum of conflict. As defined by Joint Publication 3-0, shaping operations are intended to dissuade or deter adversaries, assure or solidify relationships, enhance international legitimacy, and gain multinational cooperation.51 Therefore, collectively, shaping operations are arguably the most important activity undertaken within an area of responsibility (AOR).
In the PACOM AOR, this note rings especially true. With no major combat operations currently underway, the majority of operations conducted directly support shaping operations. Furthermore, strategic guidance put forth by ADM Robert F. Willard, Commander U.S. Pacific Forces, seeks to protect and defend U.S. interests in the region while promoting regional security and deterrence of aggression; all functions within or underpinned by the effectiveness of shaping operations.52 Specifically, for the South China Sea this means maintaining forward presence, providing for extended deterrence, and concentrating on the focus areas of allies and partners, China, and transnational threats.53 In every instance, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the sea and the 1994 Implementation Agreement support those objectives. In fact, for the South China Sea, Freedom of Navigation assertions and the Proliferation Security Initiative would benefit immediately.