Diplomacy can help resolve sea disputes

Updated: 2015-04-01 15:46

By Wu Shicun(Chinadaily.com.cn)

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Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Bo’ao Forum for Asia in Hainan province on March 28, President Xi Jinping reiterated that, “all of us must oppose interference in other countries’ internal affairs and reject attempts to destabilize the region out of selfish motives”. His remarks was echoed by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who pledged that Beijing would follow the dual-track approach to solve disputes in the South China Sea.

According to the approach, agreed to by China and most members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last November, specific disputes should be resolved through negotiations and consultations between relevant countries based on international law and respect for historical facts.

The dual-track approach, crucial for maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and its surrounding areas, represents Beijing’s consistent maritime policy and suits most ASEAN member states which seek cooperation and development as well. Accordingly, its implementation should be the priority for all sides locked in maritime disputes.

To begin with, the approach calls for scientific definition of the South China Sea issues in order to seek resolutions and, more importantly, to prevent the situation from worsening. Over the past years, frequent outside interventions have heightened regional tensions and given rise to a complex game among the different stakeholders in the South China Sea.

Since the Beijing-proposed approach makes it perfectly clear that the South China Sea issues are essentially disputes between China and some of its neighbors over the sovereignty of some islands and maritime jurisdictions, they should be resolved through peaceful negotiations by the parties concerned.

Moreover, because ASEAN is a regional organization and not a sovereign state, it cannot be part of the negotiations with China to discuss the disputes. Yet China and ASEAN are equally obliged to maintain peace and stability in the region, because the South China Sea issues have a lot to do with ASEAN’s overall interests and ongoing economic integration.

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