Diplomacy can help resolve sea disputes

Updated: 2015-04-01 15:46

By Wu Shicun(Chinadaily.com.cn)

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Negotiations, which are often easier to accept and less likely to create controversies between/among disputing countries, can also serve as a major diplomatic means which the dual-track approach calls for. At their 13th Joint Working Group Meeting on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in Myanmar on March 30-31, China and ASEAN both expressed their sincere willingness to hold negotiations to resolve the disputes.

China has consistently pushed for peaceful negotiations to end the disputes in the South China Sea. The drawing of demarcation lines in the South China Sea, including the one between China and Vietnam in the Beibu Gulf in 2000, and that between Indonesia and Malaysia in 1969 to decide their continental shelves, are conducive to the implementation of the dual-track approach, whose ultimate goal is to maintain permanent peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Apart from negotiations, pragmatic cooperation between China and the ASEAN economies, such as the serial working group meetings on implementing the DOC, plays a constructive role in maintaining peace and rebuilding mutual trust in the region. Also, to support cooperation in maritime issues in less-sensitive fields, China established the 3-billion-yuan ($483-million) ASEAN-China Maritime Cooperation Fund in 2011.

Being a key field in which China and its maritime neighbors cooperate to enhance their mutual economic interest, the South China Sea will become a weak link in the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative if tensions keep rising in the region. So, even on a broader canvas, the dual-track approach will accelerate the implementation of the new maritime Silk Road but only if the South China Sea is free of tension.

The author is president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

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