One of the central drivers of the South China Sea dispute is competition over mineral and fishing-rich areas.
Bergmann says geologists believe the South China Sea contains enormous reserves of oil and natural gas, much of it in disputed areas.
"Cumulatively, the South China Sea probably has about 80 percent of the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia," Bergmann added. "So, we're talking many billions of barrels of oil and many trillions of cubic feet of natural gas."
The ongoing tensions have prevented comprehensive surveys of oil and gas deposits.
But when it comes to fishing the South China Sea is known to be rich. The region provides about ten percent of the world's catch, but growing demand means fish stocks are more quickly depleted.
Storey says competition for fish has led to conflict at sea.
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