Dispute on Ieodo

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Dispute on Ieodo

The Chinese government claimed ownership over Ieodo, an underwater reef south of Jeju Island, via a state agency’s Web site. Korea is still trying to calm down after the provocation caused by Japan’s renewed claim to the Dokdo islets. Now China irritates us.

As every coastal state has the right to establish an exclusive economic zone up to 200 nautical miles from the baselines of the territorial sea, Ieodo lies where both Korea and China’s exclusive economic zones overlap.

Ieodo is located 81 nautical miles from Mara Island, the southernmost point of South Korea, and 133 nautical miles from China’s Tungdao Island. In this case, it is certain that Korea has jurisdiction over the island in terms of the “Midline Principle,” a general principle of international law for marking boundaries.

However, China has refused to acknowledge that Ieodo has been under Korean jurisdiction since 2003, when Korea established an oceanic science research center on the underwater reef. China insists that Ieodo belongs to China, based on the length of coastline and the size of the population that lives near the reef, pursuant to the provisions of international law.

However, China has continued to raise such claims or objections in light of exclusive economic zones. In particular, China agreed with Korea in 2006 that “Ieodo cannot be a territory because it is an underwater reef.” In spite of this agreement, the Web site run by a Chinese state agency defines the reef as its own territory.

China has a turbulent history of territorial disputes with neighboring countries such as Japan and Vietnam, in addition to Korea. Sometimes, intoxicated by economic victory, China tries to foster a misleading sense of patriotism, cultivating a form of primitive passion, a kind of Chinese chauvinism. It undermines China’s moral authority - a key factor shaping China’s overall foreign policy that says “the peaceful rise of China will neither stand in the way nor threaten any other country.” China’s claim to Ieodo, then, is contradictory.

The description on the Web site should be deleted right now. China should make its utmost effort to forge friendly ties with Korea and behave honorably as a great nation.

Meanwhile, Korea should allow neighboring countries to utilize the science center on the reef. We should allow Chinese scientists to use it and share necessary information on weather and fishing. Ieodo can be used for our mutual peace and prosperity.

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