Maritime Claims and Energy Cooperation in the South China Sea
The unresolved maritime claims to all, or parts, of the South China Sea involve Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and China, and have hindered the development of the hydrocarbon resources there. Rising oil prices and China's voracious appetite for energy have stimulated greater interest in the exploitation of the area's oil reserves. Despite the uncertainty, ASEAN countries have involved energy companies in exploration and drilling in their respective claims. Cooperation arrangements between national oil companies including Chinese have been negotiated which hold out the prospect of greater security, even in the absence of a settlement of the maritime claims. Energy cooperation may stabilize the South China Sea providing a secure operating environment for oil exploitation. In time, the way could be prepared for further steps which would involve the claimants in negotiations over a resolution of the maritime claims.