Temperatures rising in the South China Sea - The Nation Temperatures rising in the South China Sea. The code of conduct being drawn up by Asean is much needed to defuse conflict If the current tension continues in South China Sea, especially between the Philippines and China, it could lead to an all-out war. This is not an alarmist's warning but a real concern. With poisonous rhetoric and growing tension, there is a possibility that conflicting parties would cross the line. This could be a result of miscalculation. First of all, the Philippines has been quite aggressive in pursuing its claims in the Scarborrough Shoals. President Beningo Aquino III was very vocal against China with strong condemnations that have surprised his Asean colleagues. For the past one month, news headlines continued with the exchanges between the two claimants with sharpening threatening words. Apparently, either party will climb down for the time being. From the Philippine perspective, this is not a conflict between the two countries, it is between China and other claimants. Whatever happens to the Philippines as a result, it will happen to other Asean claimants as well. That is why the Philippines has been quite disappointing that Asean as a whole did not come forward to back its positions. From Beijing's point of view, the Philippines poses a huge challenge to its claims in the resource-riched maritime region by dragging the conflict beyond the regional limits. The Philippine leaders have constantly argued that their defence treaty with the US would be affected if a war breaks out between the Philippines and China. Although the US has not said much but it is willing to play along with the ambiguity. That can be the most dangerous game in town. With the ongoing presidential campaign, the Republican warriors have been attacking President Barrack Obama's foreign policy and its achievements. This could lead to toughening of Obama's position vis-?-vis China to feed in domestic electoral strategies. Of course, one should not take the campaign slogans too seriously. The Chinese leaders would not take such positions lightly. This is a precarious situation if it happens. Again, the only way out is to make sure that both Asean and China could agree on the code of conduct in managing conflict in South China Sea. Otherwise, it would be difficult to reduce tension. Last week's meeting in Phnom Penh among the senior officials belonged to the working on South China Sea produced some positive outcomes. But they still have more challenges. First of all, the Asean members have to agree among themselves. Then, they have to present the code of conduct to the Chinese for further consultation. If both sides could not agree on the code by the end of this year, the conflict could intensify and fuel further mistrust. That is not augur well with the region. Asean is moving towards the Asean Community. Any disruption in the Asean-China relations would be hazardous to the future community building. It is imperative that the Philippines and China utilize the Asean channel through the code of conduct as a mechanism to stand down. This is after all the best "face-saving" device for them. They must do it now as the time is running out.