Beijing official claims jurisdiction over Korea’s southern reef
Ocean research station on Ieodo
By Lee Tae-hoon
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) plans to call in senior diplomats of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul today to protest Beijing’s claims of jurisdiction over Korea’s southern reef territory Ieodo, a ministry spokesman said Sunday.
“We have decided to summon ranking officials of the Chinese Embassy to the ministry to reiterate our government’s stance that Ieodo lies within Korea’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” a MOFAT official said on condition of anonymity.
“We will also demand an explanation as to why a senior Chinese official recently told the media that Ieodo falls under Chinese jurisdiction and his country’s radar and aircraft will conduct regular surveillance of the submerged rock.”
The move comes on the heels of growing public anger over remarks by Liu Cigui, director of China’s State Oceanic Administration, that China has the right to exercise sovereignty over Ieodo
In an interview with China’s official Xinhua News Agency on March 3, Liu said his agency has launched a monitoring system of surveillance vessels and aircraft for the waters surrounding the rock on which Korea has built an ocean research station.
The MOFAT official, however, acknowledged that China has long denied Korea’s sovereignty over Ieodo and that any breakthrough is unlikely to be made in the near future over the demarcation lines of the two neighboring countries’ overlapping EEZs.
The rock, submerged 4.6 meters below sea level, is located 149 kilometers southwest of Korea’s southernmost island of Marado and 247 kilometers northeast of the nearest Chinese island Tongdao.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that any coastal state has the rights to claim an EEZ that stretches up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from its shore, except where there is an overlap with a neighboring country’s claims.
Seoul claims that Ieodo is within its EEZ as it sits on the Korean side of the equidistant line and the reef is located on the Korea section of the continental shelf.
Beijing does not recognize Korea’s application of the equidistance principle and argues that Ieodo lies on its continental shelf.
“Legally speaking, Ieodo is located in international waters, rather than one country’s EEZ as the two countries have failed to reach a final agreement over the delimitation of the maritime border,” Kim Yong-hwan, a senior researcher at the Northeast Asia History Foundation, said.
“China is opposing the equidistance principle of UNCLOS, especially over the area surrounding Ieodo as it is replete with natural resources.”
Beijing insists that a country with a bigger population and large coastal territory should have larger EEZs and that the current international law is unfair.
Kim said China appears to have renewed its claim over the region in order to make it a disputed territory with Korea and keep records of its activities around it in case the two countries take the matter to the International Court of Justice.
“China made a protest against Korea’s salvage of a wrecked cargo ship near Ieodo in 2010 in an apparent attempt to document its exercise of territorial rights,” Kim said.
Some experts point out that the Chinese government’s provocation can be seen as its anxiety over Korea’s construction of a naval base on its southern island of Jeju capable of accommodating more than 20 warships, including three Aegis destroyers and submarines.
외교통상부는 최근 중국 당국자가 이어도의 관할권을 주장했다는 중국 언론보도와 관련해 12일 주한중국대사관 관계자를 초치할 예정이다.
외교부 당국자는 11일 "국제법규과장이 내일 중국대사관 정무팀장을 만나 보도된 발언이 사실인지, 어떤 맥락에서 나온 것인지 등을 확인할 계획"이라면서 "사실관계를 파악한 뒤 대응 여부와 방향을 정할 것"이라고 밝혔다.
류츠구이(劉賜貴) 중국 국가해양국장은 지난 3일 관영 신화통신과의 인터뷰에서 이어도(중국명 쑤옌자오·蘇巖礁)가 중국 관할해역에 있으며 감시선과 항공기를 통한 정기순찰 범위에 포함돼 있다고 밝힌바 있다.
이에 대해 한 외교부 관계자는 중국측에 한중간 배타적 경제수역(EEZ) 경계가 획정 되지 않았다며 이어도는 명백히 우리의 EEZ 내에 속한다는 우리 정부의 입장을 전달하겠지만 중국이 그 동안 이어도 관할권을 주장해 온 것을 감안할 때 당장 타협점을 찾기는 어려울 것이라 전망했다.