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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: October 2009

9 - Escalation, Negotiation, and Crisis Type

Summary

Introduction

In 1988, Vietnam and China engaged in a brief, but violent, military clash over conflicting claims of ownership regarding an archipelago known as the Spratly Islands located in the South China Sea (Amer 1994; Furtado 1999). The crisis lasted several days and at least three Vietnamese were killed, dozens were missing, and no meaningful resolution to the crisis was achieved (Brecher and Wilkenfeld 1997). The crisis between Vietnam and China is a classic illustration of the “violence begets violence” dynamic. One argument suggests that once violence is employed in a crisis, states find it exceedingly difficult to switch to more de-escalatory or accommodative strategies to manage the crisis, especially to negotiation (Huth 1988; Brecher 1993; Leng 1993a, 1994; Dixon 1994, 1996; Rubin et al. 1994; Miall 1996).

The 1987 crisis between Uganda and Kenya offers a similar illustration of an initially violent escalation phase. In response to Kenya's decision to impose tighter border controls on traffic coming from Uganda into Kenya, Ugandan armed forces crossed the border into Kenya. Border skirmishes ensued for days and led to the deaths of several civilian and military personnel; it appeared, for a time at least, that the two countries might go to war (Time, 11 January 1988). In this crisis, however, the presidents of Uganda and Kenya met two weeks later in the town of Malaba to negotiate a peaceful resolution to their conflict. Both sides agreed to withdraw their security forces and reopen their borders (Ofcansky 1996).

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