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S. Korea to submit claim on East China Sea shelf to U.N. this year

All Headlines 13:31 July 03, 2011

SEOUL, July 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has decided to submit a claim to an extended portion of the continental shelf in the East China Sea to a United Nations commission within this year, the government said Sunday, a move expected to rekindle its dispute with China and Japan over the extent of their respective exclusive economic zones.

The submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) will claim that the country's statutory exclusive economic zone stretches beyond the current 200 nautical miles, government officials said.

"In order to submit an official document to the U.N. CLCS, the government is reviewing and processing related data," a government official said. "As soon as the documentation is completed, we will officially submit it to the U.N. through the necessary process."

According to the U.N. Law of the Sea, countries wishing to delimit their outer continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles have to submit information on the claim to the commission.

In the submission, Korea is expected to claim that the Korean Peninsula's naturally extended continental shelf stretches to the Okinawa Trough in the East China Sea.

The country had lodged a similar claim in its preliminary information submission to the U.N commission on May 12, 2009.

In 2009, the country reportedly lodged a claim to 19,000 square meters outside of its 200-nautical-mile territorial sea baseline. The claimed sea territory is located in the Korea-Japan Joint Development Zone, south of Jeju Island.

The Korean claim then immediately sparked a dispute over sea territory demarcation with China, which followed up with its own claim over the Okinawa Trough. China argued the trough is part of its natural continental shelf extension. It also submitted a claim to Ieo-Do, which lies in the overlapping part of the two countries' exclusive economic zones, in which Korea has an observation station.

The government official said Seoul's documentation with the U.N. this year is likely to be followed by a similar move by China, rekindling a sea territory dispute among the Northeast Asian countries.

"Final settlement of continental shelf territory determination will be made through mutual demarcation between the two countries," the government official said. "The government is participating in the negotiation under the goal of securing as large an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf as possible," he said.

South Korea is scheduled to hold working-level talks with China on sea border demarcation later this year. A Korea-Japan working-level conference over exclusive economic zones is also slated for this year.

The disputed East China Sea shelf holds natural gas and oil deposits 10 times those found in Saudi Arabia and lies on the disputed sea borders of the three Northeast Asian countries.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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