Korea said Tuesday that there is no doubt that the rock outcropping of Ieodo off its southern island of Jeju belongs within Korea's maritime boundary, responding to China's proposal to demarcate the area's exclusive economic zones through talks.
Ieodo, submerged 4.6 meters, lies within the overlapping exclusive economic zones of South Korea and China. Although an international maritime law stipulates that a submerged rock cannot be claimed as territory by any country, Korea effectively controls Ieodo, which is closer to it than any other country.
"As Ieodo is closer to our side than any other country, Ieodo will be declared as within our maritime boundary through any talks," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.
Cho made the remarks in response to a claim by the Chinese government that the issue of Ieodo should be resolved through bilateral talks.
"Our basic stance is that the issue should be swiftly resolved through talks on the demarcation of maritime boundaries," Cho said. "Through the talks, Ieodo will be confirmed as our maritime boundary."
The issue has recently drawn public attention in South Korea following media reports that Liu Xigui, the chief of China's State Oceanic Administration, claimed in an interview with Beijing's Xinhua news agency that Ieodo is in waters under Chinese control and is part of areas patrolled by Chinese vessels and aircraft.
On Monday, South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae-shin called in Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xinsen and lodged a protest against Liu's remarks.
Korea has taken steps to reinforce its jurisdictional control over the islet and in 2003 built an unmanned maritime research station on it to monitor weather conditions and survey maritime features in the area.
Ieodo is located 149 kilometers southwest of Korea's southernmost island of Marado and 247 kilometers northeast of the nearest Chinese island Tongdao. (Yonhap)