Recent Developments in the South China Sea: Implications for Regional Security and Cooperation
June 30, 2011
The South China Sea’s significance has been wider recognized by many stakeholders in international navigation, maritime safety, natural resource exploitation, environmental protection, and legal effectiveness of international law. The South China Sea disputes relating to the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands and maritime zones associated with these groups of islands remain as ones of potential flashpoints that could cause regional instability. Since 1990s, efforts have been made by regional countries to stabilize the situation and seek the opportunities for cooperation in the South China Sea area. These efforts have resulted in, among others, the ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea in 1992, the adoption in 2002 of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), according to which all signing parties pledged to seek peaceful solutions to disputes and conduct maritime cooperation in order to maintain regional stability in the South China Sea. However, after signing the DOC, the parties have not ceased activities that complicate the situation. Tensions have occasionally arisen and claimants continued to protest each other’s moves in the South China Sea.
This paper will focus on the efforts made by regional countries to stabilize the situation and promote cooperation in the South China Sea; analyse implications of recent developments in the South China Sea for regional security and cooperation, why the implementation of the signed documents, especially the DOC, has been incomplete; and try to contribute some solution-oriented suggestions for promoting regional security and cooperation.