by Xu Ke
BEIJING, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Regional cooperation always remains the mainstream of bilateral ties between China and the Southeast Asian countries despite their territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
As leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gather on Friday at a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the South China Sea issue is likely to be one of several issues to be talked about.
The leaders can make use of the forum to discuss how to further enhance regional cooperation, peace and prosperity.
For decades, the South China Sea issue has been lingering over, but maritime disputes will not necessarily lead to confrontation in the region.
Over the years, instead of skirmishing with each other for territorial gains, China and ASEAN countries have enjoyed rapid economic growth and smooth development of bilateral ties, and maintained a rather stable regional situation.
That's because they share tremendous common interests despite limited territorial differences.
China is now the largest trading partner of the ASEAN countries, while the regional bloc has grown to become China's third biggest trading partner, after the European Union and the United States.
To further expand their trade interactions, the two sides have established a free trade area in 2010, one of the largest among all developing countries.
Moreover, China's new leadership has attached great importance to developing ties with the ASEAN members, viewing it a key part of Beijing's foreign policy priority.
By shelving their differences and focusing on common development, it will buy time for all relevant parties to figure out effective and lasting solutions to their disputes.
The joint development of gas and oil resources in regional waters could be one of the workable ways in which those in the region deal with their disputes before the arrival of a final settlement.
Meanwhile, it will be appreciated if external players stop meddling in the regional maritime rows and avoid sending wrong signals that would encourage some regional countries to take reckless actions.
Rome was not built in a day. The complicated territorial disputes cannot be settled right away.
What the Asian countries should do at the moment is to commit themselves to seeking a peaceful settlement of sea-related issues through friendly consultations, and joining hands to push further forward their cooperation.