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Shared development of oil, gas and possibly other natural resources is the most promising option for reducing tensions in the South China Sea and should be the focus of efforts to improve diplomatic relations between China and its coastal neighbors.

Joint development agreements (JDAs) are already common across Asia. Most of the countries with a disputed claim in the South China Sea have signed at least one joint agreement to explore for oil and gas, either in the South China Sea or in neighboring areas like the Gulf of Thailand and the East China Sea, so there are many precedents to draw on.

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