LINES OF THOUGHT ACROSS SOUTHEAST ASIA

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Troubled waters

Southeast Asia needs to present a united front on the South China Sea dispute sooner rather than later

December 6, 2013

Southeast Asia needs to present a united front on the South China Sea dispute sooner rather than later

The long-running territorial dispute in the South China Sea, believed to be rich in untapped natural resources, seems unlikely to be resolved any time soon.
Asean ran aground in July last year on the issue of the South China Sea, where China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines all have territorial claims.
 
The Paracel and Spratly islands, as well as the Scarborough Shoal, may have vast reserves of natural resources, but the areas remain largely unexplored. Extrapolating estimates using the mineral wealth of neighbouring areas, the US Energy Information Administration approximates that the area holds 11 billion barrels of oil reserves, 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and a potential wealth of hydrocarbons. The area is also one of the region’s main shipping lanes and is home to abundant fishing grounds that sustain the livelihoods of thousands of people.
While China has typically pushed to negotiate with individual countries behind closed doors, analysts say the region will have more leverage if it negotiates as a bloc, which, to date, it has failed to do. Attempts to discuss new ideas for resolving the dispute have left the ten-member bloc severely divided and open to criticism.



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