Bracing for a Long Road in the South China Sea Dispute

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WASHINGTON — Chinese ship and helicopter are seen during a search and rescue exercise near Qilian Yu subgroup in the Paracel Islands, which is known in China as Xisha Islands, South China Sea, July 14, 2016.
Chinese ship and helicopter are seen during a search and rescue exercise near Qilian Yu subgroup in the Paracel Islands, which is known in China as Xisha Islands, South China Sea, July 14, 2016.

This week Chinese state media reported that Beijing is hoping to finalize next year a long-stalled code of conduct for the South China Sea, which could lessen territorial tensions among countries in the region. The official China Daily reported that diplomats representing China and member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) approved a new hotline for maritime emergencies and vowed to complete a draft of the code of conduct by the middle of next year.

Completing the legally-binding code of conduct would mark a major breakthrough after more than a decade of largely fruitless negotiations. Outside observers are skeptical about the chances for a deal, in part because of China’s more aggressive posture in the region following the ruling by the U.N.-backed arbitral tribunal that largely dismissed many of Beijing’s maritime claims.

Chinese officials have sent aircraft on “combat patrols” near contested islands in the South China Sea, and satellite images reviewed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies show new aircraft hangars capable of housing their fighters.

http://www.voanews.com/a/south-china-sea-analysis/3470625.html

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