Panel Agrees: South China Sea Dispute Won't Be Easily Resolved

NEW YORK, June 4, 2012 — The stretch of water reaching from the Strait of Malacca to the Strait of Taiwan in the Pacific Ocean is known by different names — the East Sea, the West Philippine Sea and, most popularly, the South China Sea. It’s considered among the most contested body of water in the world as China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei all claim conflicting sovereignty over it. In a discussion at Asia Society New York moderated by Amanda Drury, co-anchor of CNBC’s Street Signs, panelists explored the contentious issue.   

According to Dr. Huang Jing, a Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Chinese leaders have pursued a rather ambiguous foreign policy regarding the area and are not necessarily willing to compromise when they feel they do not have to.

“I think that the ASEAN-centered approach is the best long-term dialogue for managing differences on these issues,” stated Dr. Patrick Cronin, Center for a New American Security Senior Advisor. As he sees it, the ASEAN process will allow the countries of the region to play a dampening effect on the growing competition with China and prevent direct conflict.

However, Dr. Hung Nguyen, an Associate Professor at George Mason University, takes a contrasting view. In his perspective, ASEAN lacks the level of centrality required for it to be an effective forum for resolution. “An equitable solution would require three things: Chinese restraint, ASEAN cohesion, and U.S. commitment,” he said.

While opinions differ on the matter, one point all of the panelists agreed on was that the South China Sea issue will not be easily resolved — it is a tangled web of contradictory claims and conflicting foreign policies that likely will not be unraveled for many years to come.

Reported by Jenna Pan

Video: Highlights from South China Sea discussion (8 min., 4 sec.)

Watch the complete program

This program was funded with the generous support of HBO, as part of the HBO Series on Asian Hotspots.