Seoul submits claim to extend sea shelf to UN

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Seoul submits claim to extend sea shelf to UN

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The Korean government submitted an official claim to a United Nations body to extend a portion of continental shelf beyond the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the East China Sea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said yesterday.

The formal document was presented to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in New York on Wednesday, following China’s own claim that overlaps with Korea’s.

“Based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, we submitted an official document claiming that the Korean Peninsula’s natural prolongation of the continental shelf in the East China Sea extends to the Okinawa Trough,” the ministry said in a statement.

According to the UN law referred to by the ministry, coastal nations can submit information on the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from their shores.

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Compared to Korea’s previous preliminary report submitted in May 2009, the size of the shelf beyond 200 nautical miles claimed by Korea has more than doubled.

“On May 12, 2009, Korea submitted to the secretary general of the UN preliminary information indicating the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of its territorial sea is measured in the East China Sea,” the statement said.

“After undertaking a thorough assessment and review of the scientific data of the areas concerned since the submission of Korea’s preliminary information, the Korean government has completed the preparation of its submission in respect to the East China Sea.”

The Foreign Ministry gathered relevant data and carried out studies jointly with others, including the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, and the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources.

According to a senior ministry official, compared to Korea’s 2009 preliminary report, the country’s outer limit has been extended up to 125 kilometers (78 miles) toward Japan and the size of the shelf claimed by Seoul in its official document has more than doubled. In 2009, Korea’s outer line beyond 200 nautical miles was limited to the Korea-Japan Joint Development Zone.

The official claim by Korea comes after China also submitted its own official document on Dec. 14 to the CLCS claiming that its natural prolongation of the continental shelf in the sea extends to the Okinawa Trough, in which part of its claim overlaps with Korea’s.

When Seoul and Beijing submitted respective preliminary reports to the UN body, Japan voiced strong opposition to the claims saying that the two countries have violated its sea rights.

“Largely, Korea and China share a similar stance in defining the limits while they both disagree with Japan,” said another official from the Foreign Ministry.

According to the ministry, if Japan claims the area as a disputed zone to the UN body, the CLCS is to refrain from reviewing the cases and instead, the three parties should mark the final demarcation through working-level agreements.

“As for now, the significance of our submission is that we declared our rights to and the principle about the trough scientifically, technically and geographically to the international community,” the senior official said.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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