Why China Kept Seoul in the Dark Over Oil Spill

      July 13, 2011 09:46

      Beijing failed to inform Korea, Japan and Russia of a massive oil spill last month in Bohai Bay because it technically lies outside the jurisdiction of a cooperation agreement among the four countries.

      The Action Plan for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Northwest Pacific Region (NOWPAP) was signed in 1994.

      Supervised by the UN Environment Programme, NOWPAP aims to respond to pollution in the East and West Seas shared by the four countries and protect the marine ecosystems there.

      The four countries have hosted meetings by rotation and staged a joint annual exercise to respond to oil spills. Seoul informed the other three in detail about the oil spill in Taean, South Chungcheong Province in late 2007.

      But NOWPAP only covers waters 33-52 degrees northern latitude and 121-143 degrees eastern longitude, and does not include Chinese coastal waters at 117-120 degrees eastern longitude like Bohai Bay.

      "It seems China doesn't want this area covered by NOWPAP because there are many sensitive military facilities there," a government official said.

      Although four more oil spills occurred in Bohai Bay alone since 2009, the Chinese government and state-run oil companies have only revealed minimum information when further cover-up was impossible and kept everybody in the dark.

      Beijing is still refusing to inform Seoul of the exact area and amount of the oil spill, saying the currents in the bay do not flow toward Korea.

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