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Scholars meet to discuss South China Sea disputes

By Nga Pham
BBC News, Hanoi

meeting in Hanoi
This is the first meeting of its kind on the South China Sea dispute

International scholars are meeting in Vietnam to discuss territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The move is seen as an effort to bring the issue to the world stage, in the face of China's growing assertiveness.

The workshop is due to emphasise co-operation between all sides, in order to maintain security and development.

China and six other nations, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines, claim sovereignty to areas in the South China Sea.

The area is believed to be rich in oil and other natural resources.

Talks on a joint Code of Conduct to ease tension have stalled despite a declaration issued in 2002.

Smaller claimants have been especially alarmed by recent developments such as the establishment of a Chinese submarine base on Hainan island and increasing Chinese naval activities.

Beijing always maintains that territorial disputes in the South China Sea are bilateral issues that should be dealt by individual countries.

But the two-day meeting in Hanoi is sending out clear signals that smaller claimants may have embarked on a different approach.

Vietnam now wants to put the issues on the international agenda with hopes to restart the negotiation of the Code of Conduct that would help to prevent further conflicts.

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