Japan moves to solidify its control of EEZ

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Japan moves to solidify its control of EEZ

With the Japanese government deciding to enact a comprehensive law on development and exploration of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to Yomiuri Shimbun yesterday, conflicts involving overlapping EEZs among Japan, China and Korea are expected to escalate.

The EEZs of the three countries are so close that respective regions of the countries overlap with each other. The Dokdo islets have been a controversial region between Korea and Japan, while the Senkaku Islands have remained a disputable area between China and Japan.

Korean media outlets interpret Japan’s move as evidence of its intent to protect its sovereignty over sea jurisdiction against China.

The EEZ refers to a sea zone for which a sovereign state has special rights over for the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production. It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from its coast.

The Korean government plans to write a similar law by the end of next month. The scheduled move is part of the Park Geun-hye government’s major tasks. It has pledged to conduct thorough management of the country’s territorial sea.

“The government will increase monitoring on Japan’s further moves related to the enactment of the EEZ law,” said an official in charge of the territorial sea at the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries. “The content of the law could be different from ours.”

The official explained the government can’t comment on possible consequences of the Japanese law since it hasn’t been informed of the details.

“Our law announced as part of the ministry’s annual plan is focused on strengthening management of the country’s jurisdictional seawater,” he added.

The three Northeast Asian countries have been in a constant war of nerves involving areas of overlap in their EEZs.

When the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said in April that it would enhance control of the nation’s territorial sea and EEZ, China sent thorny signals to the Korean government.

Last year, the two countries were embroiled in a serious dispute over the sovereignty of Ieodo, a group of underwater reefs located 92 miles southwest of Korea’s southernmost Mara Island. Ieodo is effectively controlled by Korea.

The island lies in an overlapping part of the two countries’ respective EEZs. As part of efforts to strengthen its jurisdictional control over the islet, Korea built an unmanned maritime research station on it in 2003 to monitor weather conditions.

Last December, the Korean government submitted an official claim to a United Nations body to extend its EEZ beyond a portion of the continental shelf in the East China Sea, following China’s own claim that overlaps with Korea’s.

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.

“With Japan, since the two countries have contrasting stances on the sovereignty of the Dokdo islets, there are some seeds that might grow into possible conflicts over the scope of each country’s EEZ,” the official added.

The Korean government held a total of 14 negotiations with the Chinese government from 1997 through 2008 to officially determine sea guard lines in the EEZs. It held 11 negotiations with the Japanese government. However, none has born fruit.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]
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