Beijing submits East China Sea claims to the UN

AP, AFP and Bloomberg, Beijing and WASHINGTON

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 - Page 1

China provided the UN with detailed claims to waters in the East China Sea on Friday, apparently padding out its legal argument in an ongoing territorial dispute with Japan.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it submitted documents claiming waters extending beyond its 200 nautical mile (370km) exclusive economic zone. It said geological features dictated that China’s claim extended to the edge of the continental shelf off the Chinese coast, about 200km from Japan’s Okinawa Island.

A statement posted on the ministry’s Web site gave no specifics, but China had pledged to make such a submission shortly after its dispute with Japan over the uninhabited Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu (釣魚) in China, flared again in September. Taiwan also claims the islands.

Japan angered China by buying three of the islands from their private Japanese owners to block a rival bid by Tokyo’s nationalist mayor, a move Japan had hoped would prevent a bigger crisis.

Violent anti-Japanese protests then broke out across China to assert what many Chinese believe is their country’s ages-old claim on the rocky outcrops.

China’s move is a way for it to underscore its claim, but will have little real impact. The UN commission to which it submitted its claim, which comprises geological experts, evaluates the markers on technical grounds, but has no authority to resolve overlapping claims.

The UN submission represents one aspect of China’s approach to the dispute. Another involves dispatching vessels to patrol in the area and confront Japanese coast guard ships.

On Thursday, China for the first time dispatched a plane over the islands, prompting Tokyo to accuse it of violating Japanese air space. The Japanese Defense Agency said four Japanese F-15 jets headed to the area in response, but the non-military Chinese plane was nowhere to be seen by the time they got there. The Japanese Foreign Ministry said a formal protest was sent to Beijing through its embassy in Japan.

China in turn protested what it said were Japanese military planes entering its airspace near the islands.

“The Foreign Ministry has urged the Japanese side to take China’s solemn position seriously and stop all acts that infringe upon or harm China’s territorial sovereignty,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said.

“China’s maritime surveillance plane flying over the Diaoyu Islands is completely normal,” Hong said, adding they were “China’s inherent territory since ancient times.”

The US also voiced concern on Friday after the incident.

“It’s important to avoid actions that raise tensions and to prevent miscalculations that could undermine peace, security and economic growth in the region,” US Department of State acting deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

Washington had raised its concerns with Beijing, he said, adding that the US made clear that its “policy and commitments regarding the Senkaku Islands are long-standing and have not changed.”

US officials had also talked to the Japanese government, he added.