Asian fix needed for South China Sea problem


The island of Ly Son lies 32 km off the Vietnamese coast, on the edge of China’s claim to some 90% of the South China Sea. The population here of about 20,000 is so isolated that electricity was only installed last year. For as long as anyone can remember, the island’s fishing boats have worked unhindered in the open waters that stretch east toward the Paracel Islands, just over 320 km away.

But China’s South China Sea claim has put the fishermen of Ly Son at the center of an increasingly tense international issue. It has also created an opportunity for Asia to prove that it is sufficiently robust and developed to fix the problem within the region, avoiding a superpower showdown between China and the U.S. That would mean persuading Beijing that its future lies in compromise and not confrontation.

The Ly Son fishing boats are out of port  for up to 10 days at a time, each bringing in catches worth about $5,000. Once fuel, costs and crew wages are taken into account, the fish provide an adequate but by no means lavish living.


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