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Search and rescue operations could help counter South China Sea tensions

Amid ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have agreed to constitute an eminent persons and experts group to provide specialist advice on setting up two so-called hotline platforms to focus on maritime search and rescue operations and rapid responses to maritime emergencies. The initiative is part of China's attempts to work with ASEAN toward implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a regional proposal to curb conflict in the region, and to step up consultations on a more binding Code of Conduct.

     The move also comes against the backdrop of two major disasters in the region: the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 bound for Beijing that went missing in March 2014 over the South China Sea (part of the debris has now been discovered washed ashore on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean); and the crash in December 2014 of Air Asia flight QZ8501, en route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore.

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