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A solution to sea dispute

Publication Date : 31-07-2012


The South China Sea — long regarded, with the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula, as one of East Asia's three major flashpoints — is making waves again.

Stretching from Singapore to Taiwan, the South China Sea is the world's second-busiest sea-lane, with one-third of global shipping transiting through it. With its strategic position in the region, it is little wonder that the South China Sea is in danger of becoming Asia's biggest potential flashpoint as claims of sovereignty over the huge area have set countries against each other in the race to tap possibly vast amounts of oil and gas deposits. China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping territorial claims in the resource-rich South China Sea. Of the six, four claimants are Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members. Asean Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan said in the World Economic Forum on East Asia on June 1 that the regional grouping is looking into the possibilities of joint development in the South China Sea among the claimants.

In preparing the guidelines on the Code of Conduct (CoC) for the claimants, he said Asean was exploring the possibilities on whether such joint development could be included as one of the modalities in the CoC. Surin noted that the claimants could possibly explore the resources together rather than focusing on who owns what. Explaining that such modalities are workable, Surin cited as an example that Thailand and Malaysia have jointly developed part of their overlapping territorial claim in the lower part of the Gulf of Thailand on a 50:50 basis. The Asean secretary-general said such an approach could keep the conflict under control too.

Hopefully the year 2013 will see Brunei playing a pivotal role in maintaining regional stability and providing a workable solution to the South China Sea issue when it assumes the Asean chairmanship next year.


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