August 08, 2011 11:22
It has been more than a month since China acknowledged an accident that resulted in an oil leak in Bohai Bay, but Beijing has failed to respond to requests by the Korean government to form a joint environmental committee to assess the damage.
◆ No Response
A government official said on Sunday, "We asked Chinese authorities last month to convene a meeting by a joint committee and we have been waiting for a response from Beijing since then."
Another official said that China requires more time to coordinate the matter internally. "Chinese authorities have told us that the matter needs to be discussed internally, as many different government branches will be involved," he said.
The oil leak occurred on June 4 and the Chinese government finally made mention of the accident for the first time at a press conference over one month later on July 5. Before this official acknowledgement, Seoul urged Beijing to confirm the accident due to the potential impact it could have on Korea's western coastline. But Chinese authorities refused to acquiesce.
After the official acknowledgement, the Korean government decided to try and hold a joint environmental committee meeting with Chinese officials as early as possible.
"We are considering holding the joint Korea-China environmental committee meeting earlier," Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said during a regular press briefing on July 12.
Meanwhile, another official said the ministry was flexible on meeting dates. "We discussed the matter through diplomatic channels so we were open to holding the meeting in July if China was willing to do so." But China has kept its famous poker face throughout the incident and not responded, while Seoul officials are trying to convince Beijing to launch talks next month.
Seoul is placing such importance on the joint meeting because it needs to get China's pledge to provide environmental data on the West Sea and discuss steps to avoid another oil leak.
Korea, Japan, China and Russia signed the Action Plan for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Northwest Pacific Region (NOWPAP) in 1994, which is supervised by the UN Environment Programme. But China's coastline, including Bohai Bay, is not included in the jurisdiction of this.
◆ No Word on Suspicions of Radiation Leak
China also failed to provide timely information when suspicions arose of a radiation leak on board a Chinese nuclear submarine. The suspicions were raised by Boxun.com, a Chinese-language Internet news outlet based in the U.S., before the news went viral online. The Chinese government stayed silent for week until Beijing's Defense Ministry indirectly denied the rumors on Friday.
China's Global Times merely said there were rumors of a radiation leak aboard a nuclear submarine in Liaoning Province, in the northeastern part of the country, and that the Chinese navy had refuted the news.
But the report stoked further concern after it was discovered that Chinese authorities prohibited vessels from entering the area of the suspected radiation leak for eight hours on Thursday, citing military exercises. This raised suspicions that officials were trying to cover up the accident rather than deal with it in a more transparent manner, as befits a global and regional player of China's scale.
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