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People's Daily Online>>Foreign Affairs

Charting a course to peace (2)

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

11:00, December 31, 2011

The South China Sea, covering more than 3.5 million square kilometers, is believed to hold oil and natural gas reserves amounting to 17.7 billion tons, making it the world's fourth-largest.

However, the region still holds the promise of being changed from a conflict flashpoint into an area with opportunities for cooperation that can help maintain regional stability.

China has proposed to shelve differences and is seeking joint development of the sea. It signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002 with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which led to the agreement of the guidelines for the implementation of the DOC in July.

Signatories agreed to cooperate in maritime protection, search and rescue, as well as transnational crime fighting.

China also proposed to establish a 3-billion-yuan ($477 million) China-ASEAN maritime cooperation fund in November, said Assistant Foreign Minister Le Yucheng earlier this month.

However, peaceful resolution of the issue and cooperation is no easy task for various reasons.

Zhang from the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies pointed out that claimants of the South China Sea often only cite favorable portions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to handle the sea disputes.

In addition, the economic slump over the past three or four years has escalated competition for energy resources and hindered joint development of the South China Sea, he said.

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