In the Southeast Asian region lays a body of water and islands which have been disputed about for the possession of them. This area by international term is known as the “South China Sea.” (Keep in mind that they do not have any correlations with China but it is rather just an international name.) This body of water runs along territories belonging to China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, and many other countries. Within this body of water, there are well over 200 islands which are un-inhabited by people and contain useful resources. Considering that the sea does not surround just one country which can claim authority over it, it is difficult to determine who has the right to these islands. There are no laws on who these islands belong to. This dispute brings into many questions about sovereignty, law of the sea, and resource ownership rights on an international level if more than one country surrounds the sea. This is also representative of the economic relations among countries in the larger Asia-Pacific region, especially in the South China Sea area. Its dynamic and cooperative approach to economic matters has attracted more partnerships with various countries and organizations across the globe. The area is potentially rich in oil and natural gas deposits; however, the estimates are highly varied. The Ministry of Geological Resources and Mining of the People’s Republic of China estimate that the South China Sea may contain 17.7 billion tons of crude oil (compared to Kuwait with 13 billion tons)
The South China Sea territorial dispute has become one of the most problematic issues in recent times. Current trends as well as complications resulting from China’s rise and its conflict with anxious neighbors have seemingly put any solution out of reach in the near future. However, there are still steps that rival claimants can take in order minimize the chance of major conflict. Before any international agreement is hastily signed, claimant countries must first resolve internal hindrances to treaties. This most especially refers to China. A good preliminary step for the country would be to strictly implement a more centralized command of its maritime law enforcement and administrative agencies. After it has done this, it can now proceed to engage in agreements with other nations without the high prospect of one of its own violating any treaty provisions. Additionally, all claimant countries should limit if not stop the negative propaganda surrounding thedispute.
The South China Sea issue is better perceived by people if it is seen as a source of cooperation rather than competition. Disproportionate national sentiment stemming from negative propaganda about the disputes allows less room for movement for government officials, and makes diplomacy difficult. Claimant countries can choose to coordinate a joint exploration of resources in order to arrive at a win-win scenario, instead of insidiously encroaching their way into oil sources, and ending up having to forfeit them when other claimant countries cry foul. Lastly, all countries involved must work to deescalate tensions and strive for resource sharing and regional cooperation. This could be done by making and implementing a legally binding code of conduct with legitimate mechanisms for settling disputes. If these steps can be done, then probably, the prospect of a stable multi-polar world is not that far off.
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