Kemp: East And South China Sea Disputes Need Creative Diplomacy
John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own
LONDON, Aug 26 (Reuters) - China and the United States appear headed for a damaging confrontation over the extent of China's territorial claims in the South and East China Seas.
Now that China has become the world's largest importer of oil, and energy more generally, the country's need to develop more indigenous energy supplies has become urgent.
Expecting China to put the South and East China Seas off limits to exploration and production until disputes over sovereignty can be resolved through some undefined legal or diplomatic process is unrealistic.
Part of the problem is that western analysts and policymakers still fail to appreciate the strategic importance of these areas. It is common to hear maritime disputes between China and its neighbours characterised in terms of uninhabited islands, submerged reefs, historic fishing grounds and unfinished business from World War Two.
In reality, the disputes centre on control over areas which are thought to contain substantial quantities of oil and gas, which could be vital to the economic development of all states in the area.
U.S. diplomats were reportedly dismayed when China started to claim the South China Sea was among the country's "core national interests" along with Tibet and Taiwan.
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