Sovereignty disputes should not hinder marine explorations which benefit human society as a whole, experts noted Sunday, adding that China should conduct marine scientific research (MSR) more often in the South China Sea with other countries.
The Chinese Commercial News, a Manila-based Chinese newspaper, reported on Saturday that Chinese oceanologists will cooperate with researchers from a Philippine oceanic academy to conduct MSR in Benham Rise.
China's scientific research vessel Kexue is expected to carry out marine activities and conduct research for three to six days in the area, the report said.
Benham Rise is an area off the Philippines' Pacific coast that lies mostly within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone but is not a Philippine territory.
"It is gratifying to see that China is having greater cooperation with other countries on marine research, which was once stagnated due to sovereignty disputes," said Liu Feng, a Hainan-based expert on the South China Sea.
The exploration could also serve as an example for joint marine research and development in disputed areas, as such efforts should not be hindered by sovereignty disputes in areas like the South China Sea, experts said.
International cooperation on MSR, an activity that is less politically sensitive, can also deepen trust among nations, Liu told the Global Times.
The South China Sea is an important site for global marine research since it has a very complex underwater structure. China should not be absent from research in the region, Liu added.
China is open to joint maritime exploration with the Philippines before a final consensus on the maritime disputes is reached, Liu Zhenmin, the then Chinese Vice Foreign Minister said in May 2017.
"Though China could explore and develop the South China Sea alone, and it is totally legitimate to do so as China owns sovereignty in the region, the country is also willing to cooperate with others as such efforts could help human society to better understand the ocean," Yang Li, deputy director of the Hainan-based Research Center for Oceans Law and Policy at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times.
Western countries are not very open to cooperation of marine research, but China should take a different approach and hold an open attitude to assist neighboring countries to further their research, Liu explained.
"Nations which are not as technologically advanced may also need China's support and help, as China's deep-sea technology has greatly progressed in the past five years," Liu said.
Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said last week that the Philippines research there needs China's help, "and no one can do it because, apparently, it's capital-intensive," he said.