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Dialogue seen as key to peace in South China Sea

By Zhou Jin in Boao, Hainan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-29 07:20
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Returning to the negotiation table and exploring means of cooperation is the only feasible and right path to reduce risk and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, and it is also the way for regional countries to get along with each other, observers said on Thursday.

They made the remarks during a panel discussion at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2024 in Boao, Hainan province, after they agreed that as a geopolitical hot spot, the South China Sea situation is evolving in a larger context of intensifying rivalries, low trust and rising tension.

Nguyen Hung Son, vice-president of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, said that with the world grappling with uncertainties, managing the South China Sea has become more challenging. "We must work together ... to reduce confusion and minimize miscalculation by strengthening strategic communication and dialogue, and we must not send the wrong signal to the other side," he said.

Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, said the South China Sea is one of the most important waterways in the world, and any disruption in the area has enormous global implications. "The world can't afford to have an unstable and unproductive South China Sea," he said, adding that it requires diplomatic efforts to develop mechanisms to address disagreements and allow various parties to jointly benefit from the waterway.

Wu Shicun, chairman of the Huayang Research Center for Maritime Cooperation and Ocean Governance and founding president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said the United States, a major external force, has been encouraging its allies to stir up provocations in the South China Sea.

"Washington supports whoever confronts China in the area, and it is the very reason why Manila frequently causes troubles in the Ren'ai Reef," he said, adding that the US should embrace a neutral policy regarding the South China Sea and avoid picking sides.

Dino Patti Djalal, founder and chairman of the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia, said the South China Sea is a rare topic on which its claimants talk regularly based on a clear pathway, which is the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. He said that exercising self-restraint is very important. "If you want stability, cooperation, trust and confidence, all claimants need to avoid actions that will provoke responses from other claimants."

Djalal added that cooperation has an inverse relationship with conflict. "The more you cooperate, the less the potential of conflict."

Yang Renhuo, deputy director-general of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, said that maritime disputes and differences are not the whole story of the relations between regional countries in the South China Sea, and these should not dilute or even drown the mainstream of friendly cooperation among regional countries.

China is willing to cooperate with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in less sensitive areas such as ensuring environmental protection, advancing scientific research, coordinating maritime search and rescue, combating transnational maritime crimes, and ensuring maritime navigation security, Yang added.

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