Compromise urged in South China Sea dispute

080707-N-1722M-075KUALA LUMPUR: China and Southeast Asian countries should compromise in the South China Sea territorial dispute to ensure perpetual peace and security as well as economic prosperity in the region.

Commander of the United States Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III said today there should be “give and take” among these countries as there was too much at stake in the economic and security aspects.

He said there must be multilateral dialogues and discussions among these countries to ease any tension and create further understanding among them.

The American top military officer in the Pacific suggested that information sharing among the countries including collaboration in combating transnational-crime such as human trafficking and illegal smuggling could also contribute towards compromise efforts between these countries.

“We expect any territorial dispute could be resolved peacefully without conflict,” he told a press-conference after giving his speech at the three-day international conference of the 27th Asia Pacific roundtable here.

China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia are claiming all or part of the area.

On the code of conduct in the South China Sea which is being worked out by Asean and China, Locklear said it would help to set guidelines for military officers to respond properly in the disputed area in order to evade friction that would lead eventually to serious military conflict.

For the background, in the 1990s, China was perceived as a threat to some of its Southeast Asian neighbours due to its territorial claims over the South China Sea and past support of communist insurgency.

Today, China’s “charm offensive” has downplayed territorial disputes while focusing on trade relations with Southeast Asia.

In November 2004, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which comprises Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, agreed to gradually remove tariffs and create the world’s largest free trade area in 2010.

China has also developed bilateral and multilateral security relationships with Southeast Asian nations.