China criticises Japan’s ‘selfish’ attempt to extend claim in Philippine Sea
- Tokyo has applied to the United Nations to extend the exclusive economic zone and limits of the continental shelf around Okinotori reef
- China and South Korea have both criticised the move and said that as a reef Tokyo has no right to extend its claims
China has criticised Japan’s attempt to extend its claim to waters off a reef in the Philippine Sea as acting its own “selfish interests”.
The Japanese government has applied to the United Nations to establish a 200-nautical mile (370km) exclusive economic zone around the Okinotori reef, which would give it special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources within an area of more than 400,000 sq km.
Tokyo has also submitted a request to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to extend the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond the 200-nautical mile baseline, which would add some further 300,000 sq km to its administration if approved.
Okinotori is 1,740km (1,080 miles) south of Tokyo and is the southernmost land feature administered by Japan.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Okinotori is a reef, not an island, and cannot have an exclusive economic zone or a continental shelf.
“Japan’s claim to an exclusive economic zone and continental shelf based on this reef is contrary to international law.”
Zhao told a regular press conference that Okinotori has a surface area of less than 10 square meters above water at high tide, but Japan is using this reef to claim nearly 700,000 sq km of waters to its jurisdiction.
“It is encroaching on the high seas and the international seabed area and undermining the overall interests of the international community for its own selfish interests,” he said.
Taiwanese fishermen also occasionally have conflicts with Japanese law enforcement around the reef. In April 2016, Japan arrested the crew of Taiwanese fishing ship who had entered the 200 nautical mile zone.
But Taipei said it “takes no specific legal position” regarding whether it is a reef or island.
The convention on the law of the sea, which Japan signed in 1983, determines that “rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone”.