Reading news reports about the rising tensions concerning territorial disputes in the South China Sea evokes memories of elementary school. Following the code of conduct was mandatory, and anyone brave enough to disregard the rules was guaranteed a trip to the principal’s office followed by mom’s wrath. Perhaps, it is the lack of a code of conduct that is part of a contentious dispute that has been lingering in Asian waters. Earlier this month, Vietnam accused Chinese boats of intentionally ramming its vessels, firing water cannons and using low-flying aircraft in a confrontation over an oil rig operating in waters that both countries seek claim to, according to a Bloomberg article. The news agency reported that PetroVietnam asked China National Offshore Oil Corp. to stop work and remove the rig, which was placed about 120 nautical miles offshore Vietnam, to no avail. Vietnam’s VPN News reported that “since May 1, 2014, China has deployed 80 armed and military ships and aircrafts to accompany China’s drilling rig” and that this is the first time China has installed an oil rig—“the move seriously violates international law, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) that China is a signatory.” China disputes the claims, saying the oil rig was placed in its territory. Based on a statement posted on the China Maritime Safety Administration’s website, China plans to limit traffic in parts of the waters under dispute due to “some unspecified activities,” according to Bloomberg. In the wake of the incident, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is pushing to hasten the code of conduct to ease tensions in the area. This is desperately needed as each of the countries pursues potential offshore hydrocarbon resources. The latest clash shows that the need for a code of conduct is needed now more than ever. Such incidents could spin out of control, resulting in damages and even worse, the loss of lives. The actions could even deter investors from the region, despite its high potential. Land disputes may take time-consuming negotiations before an agreement is reached. But in the meantime, civility and safety should not be forgotten for obvious reasons. The push for a code of conduct should be applauded. And a standing ovation would be in order if China and Vietnam actually come together to participate in the discussions. Who would’ve thought that a code of conduct would be needed when common sense should suffice? The consequences of poor decisions could have lasting impacts. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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