BOAO, China, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Economic development brought about by close cooperation between China and the ASEAN countries within such frameworks as China's Belt and Road Initiative promises to reduce tensions in the South China Sea, said panelists at the annual Boao Forum for Asia here on Sunday.
The overall situation in the South China Sea region has been steadily progressing towards detente since the latter half of 2016 thanks to joint efforts by China and ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations)countries, said Wu Shicun, President of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.
"We should think about how to grasp the opportunities brought about by China's initiative of building the 21th Century Maritime Silk Road, so as to promote common development of the greater South China Sea," said Wu.
He proposed the construction of an economic cooperation sphere of the greater South China Sea region, and promotion of maritime cooperation among littoral states in an all-round manner to promote trust and confidence among the parties concerned.
Sovereignty could hardly be compromised, but provisional measures could be called in to improve relations between rival parties, said Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister of Thailand and chairman of the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council.
"If the benefit of the provisional measures is big enough, such measures could even be prolonged," he said.
Efforts should be made to enlarge the pool of profit available across the South China Sea region, said Zheng Yongnian, director of East Asian Institute of National University of Singapore.
"Conflicts usually arise from competition for limited development opportunities or economic benefits, and this is why we should give a priority to the Belt and Road Initiative," said Zheng.
The Boao Forum for Asia annual conference opened on Thursday at Boao, a seaside resort in southern Chinese province of Hainan. The four-day event is focused on free trade and efforts against deglobalization.
The Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, was brought up by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, with the aim of building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.