There's discouraging news about efforts to manage disputed claims in the South China Sea by diplomacy instead of armed conflict. The Chinese military has announced plans to build a military garrison in the Paracel Islands. Meanwhile, the recent ASEAN conference in Pnom Penh broke up without agreement even on a final communique because of this dispute; Japan has recalled its ambassador from Beijing; and enough Republican Senators have announced opposition to ratifying the Law of the Sea convention that it would be defeated if brought to a vote.
I'm no expert on these issues, but I think smart diplomacy must be tried and might work. I like the analysis and suggestions in this Council on Foreign Relations paper.