ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
China and Vietnam call for binding sea agreementBy David Swartzemtruber
The news from the visit of Philippine President Benigno Aquino to China is that despite the differences that China and the Philippines have over the South China Sea, economic cooperation between the two countries should continue and increase.
In terms of the South China Sea dispute, Aquino is pressing for a legally binding code of conduct to reduce the number of confrontations that have been occurring this past year.
After a meeting with Aquino, China is also seeking more than a statement of principle but a “binding agreement” as well, according to Aquino, who talked with reporters in Beijing.
After several episodes, including a cable-splicing incident to a ship doing work for Vietnam, an agreement needs to be reached. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton weighed in that such confrontations could threaten the security of shipping lanes in one of the world’s most heavily used maritime highways.
At the center of the dispute are overlapping territorial claims to the oil and gas reserves lying beneath the surface.
All the involved countries want them, especially China. The Philippines would increase its hydrocarbon reserves by 40 percent over the next 20 years by exploiting the reserves, thereby reducing its need for imports.
The World Bank says that Vietnam’s need for domestic gas will triple by 2025.
Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have mineral rights in the sea, they claim.
The thirst for the hydrocarbon reserves on the part of these developing economies is at the heart of the dispute. A lasting peace in the region is unlikely to be obtained until the territorial boundaries and reserves can be determined and that may require a third party to serve as a mediator in the dispute.
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