China is claiming once again that the submerged rocks of Ieo Island are part of its own territory and included them among places to be monitored by aerial drones. The move came six months after Liu Xigui, the director of China's State Oceanic Administration, said Beijing would now regularly patrol Chinese waters using both ships and surveillance aircraft.
China's State Oceanic Administration held a ceremony demonstrating the drones in Jiangsu Province on Sunday and said it would bolster control over its waters by using them, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Monday.
China also reiterated its claim to the Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan, the Paracel Islands, Macclesfield Bank, and the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
Yu Qingsong, an official with the oceanic agency, said Beijing will set up a "comprehensive maritime control system" this year under a nine-year plan aimed at bolstering its maritime presence. China plans to build remote-controlled surveillance stations in coastal provinces by 2015 and expand drone patrols in Chinese waters.
Ieo Island is located in an area where the exclusive economic zones of Korea and China overlap but lies much closer to the Korean Peninsula, 149 km southwest of Korea's southernmost island of Mara.
The nearest Chinese island is Sheshan Dao off the coast of Shanghai, 287 km away. According to international practice, the mid-point of overlapping EEZs is chosen as a reference point, which means Ieo Island sits within Korea's zone. But China claims that the island falls under its jurisdiction since the length of its coastline and other factors would push its EEZ further east toward Korea.