Achieving peace, prosperity in South China Sea

Those who are concerned that the South China Sea is witnessing the Thucydides Trap being played out between an existing superpower and a rising one, or may become the proxy battleground for "foreign" powers, should spare a thought for the many independent-minded sovereign states in the region ("Ensure South China Sea is not proxy battleground" by Mr Hua Tye Swee; Forum Online, June 19, and "Asean must not be divided by South China Sea disputes" by Mr Lee Teck Chuan; June 18).

These countries believe in adhering to the rule and practice of international law, as well as the peaceful resolution of disputes based on an open and inclusive principled architecture.

If conflict prevention can be achieved only with multilateral deterrence, then it must be for the peace and prosperity of all.

After all, the South China Sea does not merely comprise exclusive economic zones and territorial waters according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but also key global commons, such as international waterways and overflight routes that are critical to cross-border trade, investments and people-to-people exchanges.

All right-minded trading nations have the right to take an interest in any potential disruption to the freedom of navigation via air and sea for their own security, as much as those who are lobbying support from countries outside the region who do not have any direct stake in the matter.

Claimant states who believe strongly in the legitimacy and inviolability of their claims should exercise responsibility and restraint as members of the global community, by referring these for arbitration and adjudication - comprising parties whose neutrality is trusted by all sides, if need be - instead of wielding the big stick of gunboat and chequebook diplomacy, as well as employing divide-and-rule strategies for a fait accompli.

The world is not blind to provocative and divisive actions which have clearly eroded trust and confidence across the board.

Brushing off these serious concerns as all a misunderstanding by others does more harm than good to the mantra of peaceful development and cooperation, as well as one's reputation.

Power does not come merely from the barrel of a gun.

History is littered with examples against underestimating the will of people to defend their right to self-determination against all odds.

True leadership calls for honest reflection in words and action, with due consideration for the needs of others in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world.

The world cannot afford to allow wisdom to fallow as a rare commodity among major powers, especially for politicians who aspire to be great statesmen in the annals of humankind.

Toh Cheng Seong