Distinguished Guests,

Another year has passed since the Second International Workshop on the South China Sea was held in Ho Chi Minh City. The regional seascape has witnessed many new developments. The regional and international communities are paying increasing attention to this maritime area. The international community is paying more attention because the significance of the South China Sea to peace, stability and prosperity not only in East Asia but also the entire Asia-Pacific is becoming more and more evident. The international community is also paying more attention because the South China Sea is still rife with smoldering tensions that threaten to escalate into full-scale conflicts if the parties concerned do not exercise self-restraint and respect for the basic principles of international law, and if the international community fails to respond to crisis situations in the South China Sea in an appropriate manner.

In the last year the South China Sea remained basically peaceful and stable. However, there has been some points at which the danger of an open conflict seemed to visualize and the regional and international communities had to hold their breath. Last year also witnessed numerous efforts to prevent confrontations and foster cooperation between the concerned parties. After nine years of negotiation, in particular, ASEAN and China has reached agreement on the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. There have also been many diplomatic endeavours between the claimant states directly involved in the South China Sea disputes, especially between Viet Nam, the Philippines and China. At various meetings of ASEAN and numerous fora between ASEAN and its partners, the South China Sea issues have been discussed in a constructive way. In addition, there have been several discussions on new frameworks for cooperation between the militaries, navies and law enforcement forces of ASEAN Member States as well as between those of ASEAN and its partners. From being “sensitive” topics, the South China Sea and the maintenance of peace, stability and development in this maritime area are becoming official subjects of various open, transparent and rule-based discussions held in the interest of the parties concerned and the sake of the whole international community.

In fostering these positive developments, the contribution of numerous scholars and experts on the South China Sea, many of whom are present here, through the publication of important research findings and through the articulation of critical perspectives on the South China Sea has been immeasurable. If I remember correctly, in 2009 there was only three seminars and workshops on the South China Sea in this region; in 2010, the number jumped to seven. This year we have 11 such events. More importantly, the substance of the issues discussed and the analyses and recommendations put forward at these fora are becoming more and more pertinent to the preservation of peace, stability and prosperity in the South China Sea. It is these scientific endeavours and dialogue exchanges that have played an important role in bringing the South China Sea to the monitoring radar of the international community. Consequently, the nature of the disputes and the occurrence of recent incidents in the South China Sea have been examined in a scientific, objective manner so that the public in claimant countries as well as the international community can get a more comprehensive picture of what is happening in this maritime area.


Distinguished Guests,

The South China Sea now hosts some of the most complicated disputes in the world. Such complexity is being exacerbated by major shifts in the regional economic, political, military and security circumstances. In addition to several traditional security issues including territorial and maritime disputes, other non-traditional security problems such as piracy, armed robbery on the sea, maritime pollution, depletion of maritime resources, marine ecosystem degradation, climate change, etc. are also deteriorating in this area.

In this context, the said cooperation efforts constitute only the first step on a long and arduous road to encourage countries involved in the disputes in the South China Sea, both directly and indirectly, to take the interests of other parties as well as the international community into account when deliberating their actions, so that we can all see the South China Sea turn from an area of complex disputes into a true region of peace, cooperation and development.


Distinguished Guests,

As with the previous Workshops, this Workshop is a purely scientific forum with the following objectives:

-  To exchange results of scientific research and analysis of the significance of the South China Sea in the context of major changes in the regional political, economic, defense and security environment from legal and international relations perspectives;

-  To exchange results of scientific research and analysis of the interests and policies of the concerned parties in the South China Sea and of recent developments in the South China Sea from legal and international relations perspectives; and most importantly,

-  To discuss practical recommendations for governments of all countries directly and indirectly involved in the South China Sea disputes to foster cooperation, manage the disputes, control and minimize potential conflicts in the sea effectively.


Distinguished Guests,

With a frank, objective, constructive and forward-looking approach, our Workshop today is the locus of the intellectual vigor of leading international scholars and experts on the South China Sea. It is my hope that this Workshop will continue to produce substantial results, so that next year at this same time we can be even more elated to see the elevation of trust and confidence between the parties concerned and the subsequent establishment of many new mechanisms and frameworks for cooperation for a securer and more prosperous South China Sea.

On that note, I wish to declare open the Third International Workshop “The South China Sea: Cooperation for Regional Security and Development”.

I wish all of you good health, and I wish the Workshop great success.

Thank you.