Korea Falls Behind in Report on Jurisdiction in East China Sea

      September 19, 2011 11:09

      China and Japan submitted hundreds of pages of reports over conflicts in jurisdiction over the continental shelf in the East China Sea to the UN in 2009, but the Korean government has failed to complete a full report for the last three years, it emerged Sunday.

      China claims that Ieo Island southwest of Korea's southern resort island of Jeju is an extension of the continental shelf that falls under its jurisdiction. Japan, meanwhile, rejects joint development with Korea of an area called the Joint Development Zone south of Jeju Island and near Okinawa, which has vast underwater reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

      Korean naval police conduct a drill at an ocean science base in Ieo Island, southwest of Jeju Island, on Sept. 6.

      According to documents obtained by Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Park Sun-young, the UN asked its 51 member nations two years ago to submit reports on claims to territories on the outer limits of their continental shelves to resolve disputes. At the time, both Japan and China submitted lengthy reports laying claim to continental shelves with areas more than twice the size of their land mass. But Seoul submitted only an eight-page preliminary report.

      The UN has given countries that submitted preliminary reports until this year to submit full reports, but Seoul has yet to do so.

      "The Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources spent W2 billion (US$1=W1,109) over the last seven years and created 100-page long report in English and submitted it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and  Trade," Park said. "But this has yet to be submitted to the UN. The Foreign Ministry is reluctant to deal with the continental shelf issue because it is afraid of triggering diplomatic disputes."

      But the Foreign Ministry claimed there is no deadline for submission, and since it already submitted a preliminary report, it can turn the full report in either by the end of this year or early next year.

      Based on the documents, Park said that even though the sea basin near Gunsan in North Jeolla Province is linked to the continental shelf under Korean jurisdiction, China claims it is part of the South Yellow Sea continental shelf and is drilling there for offshore oil.

      China has also begun operating four gas drilling platforms near the area and is siphoning off resources there, Park said. "This is because joint development of the JDZ continues to be delayed because of a failure to clearly delineate jurisdiction of continental shelves between Korea and Japan."

      The government sought to raise the JDZ dispute during President Lee Myung-bak's visit to Japan in 2008, but apparently failed to table the issue due to opposition from Tokyo.

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