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Peaceful undercurrent rises in South China Sea

By Ji Peijuan (People's Daily)

15:52, December 17, 2011

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

The Maritime Institute of Malaysia held a conference on the South China Sea dispute in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, from Dec. 12 to Dec. 13.

Themed "Recent Developments and Implications Toward Peaceful Dispute Resolution," the conference attracted nearly 200 officials and scholars from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, the United States, Australia, and other countries.

Calm negotiation atmosphere

The remarks of most attendees were calm and objective, showing their willingness to resolve the South China Sea dispute in a peaceful way.

In July, China and the ASEAN began plans to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. In October, China and Vietnam signed a six-point agreement to resolve the maritime dispute.

Experts believed that the current cooling was conducive to the negotiation on the code of conduct in the next phase, which was about to begin, but all parties should also have a complete understanding of the difficulty of this negotiation.

Robert Beckman, director of the International Law Center at the National University of Singapore, said that there are two aspects that present the greatest obstacle. The first was the application scope. It was hard to define the scope of application before determining the maritime boundary. The second was whether there was a specific implementation of a dispute settlement mechanism. However, more experts believed that the negotiation can be started from easier entry points.

Zhang Xinjun, an associate professor from the School of Law at Tsinghua University, pointed out that, before the negotiation on Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, it was first necessary to sum up the experience and lessons of Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in the past ten years and complement or strengthen the Declaration.

Second, Zhang said it is vital to consider the two themes in parallel in the negotiation obligation before reaching the demarcation. The code of conduct should be abided by on one hand, which would prevent the situation from being further exacerbated or the negotiation process from being hindered. The code of conduct and some simultaneously arranged substantial relationships, including common development, must also considered on the other hand. Neither of these two aspects can be neglected.

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