Gov’t postpones claim to shelf in East China Sea

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Gov’t postpones claim to shelf in East China Sea

Korea has postponed its claim to an extended portion of continental shelf in the East China Sea.

The claim will be submitted to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf sometime “within this year,” an official said yesterday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had been finalizing details to submit the claim on seabed beyond its exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea “as early as this month,” the ministry official said.

“In accordance with the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, we will submit documents on the outer limit of our continental shelf to the UN CLCS within this year,” the official said.

The official said Thursday the ministry “completed working-level procedures to formally submit the documents as early as this month,” but backpedaled Friday, saying the timing had not been fixed.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing ministry policy.

In the documents to be submitted to the UN commission, Korea is expected to claim that the Korean Peninsula’s naturally extended continental shelf stretches to the Okinawa Trough in the East China Sea, a move that is likely to rekindle a territorial dispute with Japan and China over the extent of their respective exclusive economic zones.

The postponement came a day after Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, reportedly voiced opposition to the claim.

Also on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Han Hye-jin confirmed that Korea will “soon” submit the documents to the UN commission, but declined to specify when.

“As we stated several times, our basic stance is that our continental shelf stretches to the Okinawa Trough,” Han said.

According to the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, coastal nations can claim an economic zone extending 200 nautical miles from their shores. In the EEZ, a country is eligible for exclusive rights to the exploration and use of marine resources.

Korea lodged a similar claim in its preliminary information submission to the UN commission in 2009.

The 2009 claim immediately sparked a dispute over sea territory demarcation with China, which followed up with its own claim on the Okinawa Trough.

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