Navies and nationalists may have an interest in focusing on the South China Sea disputes - but, for the people who live around it, the ownership of the Spratlys does not necessarily matter. China certainly holds the key to resolving the disputes, but other participants should be careful in pressing Beijing to speed up definition of its claims. The best way of resolving the conflict peacefully may be simply to agree that the Spratlys are not 'islands' from the point of view of international law. The states around the South China Sea could then drop the dispute about sovereignty and concentrate on more essential, shared concerns.
Tønnesson, Stein (1999) Can Conflicts Be Solved by Shelving Disputes? A Rejoinder, Security Dialogue 30 (2): 179–182.