China‘s maritime ambition
Seoul should ally with Asian nations for Ieodo
China’s recent claim over Korea’s territory Ieodo is part of Beijing’s maritime ambitions. Korea should join hands with other Asian countries to counter the anachronistic adventure by the world’s second largest economy.
China has, in fact, an inferiority complex due to its geography. It is surrounded by impassable and hard-to-travel Siberia and Mongolia to the north and the inhospitable Himalayas in the south. Its borders with Myanmar and Vietnam are full of mountains and jungles.
China’s East Sea is the only route through which it can strengthen its naval power. This should not mean that China can infringe upon the sovereignty of neighboring countries.
Beijing knows too well that it can never overtake the United States without a strong navy.
China’s first target will be Ieodo. Few can dispute that the rocky “island” submerged below the water, is part of Korea’s territory geographically and legally.
A look at Ieodo in a map shows that it is the closest to Korea. It lies within Korea’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 200 nautical miles from the country’s coast.
International experts say a rock below sea is not legally an island and thus no country can claim sovereignty. This argument loses rationale as Korea keeps an observation facility there on which Koreans have been living since 2003.
Sounding hollow is China’s claim that Ieodo is a natural extension of its continental shelf filled with sediment and silt from its rivers.
Beijing also knows that Seoul can win the dispute in an international court.
Liu Cigui, director of China’s Oceanic Administration, should retract the recent territorial claim.
Last July, China dispatched three ships to Ieodo to protest Korea’s rescue operation of a wrecked ship in the area. Last December, it announced the deployment of a ship to guard its alleged territory.
China has been in disputes with neighboring countries such as Japan, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries over maritime borders. Ieodo might become a flash point in a U.S.-China naval clash.
Seoul’s construction of a naval base on Jeju might have agitated China.
China may want Ieodo a disputed territory so that it can get the upper hand in its negotiations with Korea.
Trying to make Ieodo a disputed territory is a hackneyed tactic. It seems to copy Japan’s heinous attempts to do the same with Dokdo. Seoul should never fall prey to such plots.
China should respect international rules. Beijing should not try to twist Korea’s arms in bilateral relations on the back of its economic and military might.
Korea can ally with the other Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam in countering China’s cowboy-like behavior on the seas. The Korean government should initiate a campaign to let foreigners know the truth. Many international publications, including Wikipedia, depict Ieodo as a disputed territory.
Many Koreans know little about the strategic maritime importance of Ieodo although they know much about Dokdo.