News / Asia

China Says Geology Boosts Island Claims

China is attempting to bolster its claim to the Senkaku/Diayou Islands, which are also claimed by Japan.
China is attempting to bolster its claim to the Senkaku/Diayou Islands, which are also claimed by Japan.
In an attempt to bolster its claims to disputed islands in the East China Sea, China has presented the United Nations what it says is geological evidence proving the islands belong to Beijing.

Lianzeng Chen, the deputy head of China’s State Oceanic Administration, submitted the claim December 13, according to China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

He said Beijing has the right to claim the undersea continental shelf beyond the normal 200 nautical miles because it is a “natural prolongation” of China's land territory into the East China Sea. This claim would include the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands claimed by both China and Japan.

According to Xinhua, Chen said the geological characteristics of the continental shelf in the East China Sea differ greatly from those of the Okinawa Trough to the east, and accordingly, the trough should be seen as the end of China’s continental shelf.

Jacques deLisle, a University of Pennsylvania law professor and expert on Chinese law, said Beijing is taking a new approach to an old dispute.

“This is yet another salvo in China's contentious maritime territorial disputes with its neighbors in the East and South China Seas,” he said.

Japan’s newly elected prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has been adamant that the Senkaku/Diayou Islands belong to Japan.

DeLisle said the underlying, but not binding, legal principle for disputes like this is that coastal states get a continental shelf of 200 nautical miles, and in some cases, another 150 nautical miles if there's a natural prolongation and no conflicting claims. But there are two caveats, he said.

First is that a longer shelf is permissible when the shelf is part of a "natural prolongation," in a geological or topological sense. In other words, if you drained the ocean, the resulting land would be roughly the same altitude of the landmass.

The second exception comes when two countries have less than 400 nautical miles between their coasts. In that case, dividing the distance equally is a normal, though not fully mandatory, principle for allocating overlapping claims, according to deLisle.

“As all of this suggests, there are a few problems preventing easy or quick resolution,” he said, adding that the application of any principles “depends on some rather technical calls and iffy judgments such as what features are natural prolongation and what are not.”

According to Xinhua, no ruling by the U.N. should be expected soon as “continental shelf demarcation involves complicated scientific and technological problems” and there are many such claims before the body. The report added that any delays would not affect China’s claim.

In addition to the East China Sea, China is involved in several territorial disputes in the South China Sea, including claims to the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands, the Pratas Islands, the Macclesfield Bank, and the Scarborough Shoal.

The islands are highly coveted because of suspected large reserves of oil, natural gas, minerals and fisheries in the surrounding waters.

China’s assertive strategy toward the disputed territories, including establishing a military garrison on one of the Spratly Islands, has led to increased tensions with its neighbors.

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Comment Sorting
by: Negashabi from: Canada
December 25, 2012 4:53 PM
sorry there is a typo in my last comment:

"Vietnam invaded Cambodia and legally and brutally treated Vietnam Chinese in 1960s-1970s" should be "illegally and brutally " .Thanks.

by: Negashabi from: Canada
December 25, 2012 2:17 PM
Wangchuk and Sengupta, etc:
Your comments showed your ignorance and prejudice. You guys didn’t even know the history of Diaoyu island (Senkaku islands by Japanese). Even Diaoyu island is controlled by US and Japan now, it is NOT Japanese territory as said by Sengupta, US only allow Japan has administration, NOT sovereignty, because US government knew Diaoyu islands are part of China in terms of Potsdam Declaration and Cario declaration of WWII, US and Japan are allies, why US only transferred administration to Japan in 1970, NOT sovereignty (this issue led to wide protest in Mainland China, Hongkong and Taiwan at that time because US transferred administration of Diaoyu island to Japan without participation of mainland China, Hongkong and Taiwan) if Diaoyu island is really a territory of Japan, why Japan only has administration now? In fact, Japan robbed Diaoyu islands from China in 1895 and didn't follow WWII declaration to return Diaoyu island to China because of cold war after WWII.

Vietnam, India deserved some lessons, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and legally and brutally treated Vietnam Chinese in 1960s-1970s and robbed their properties and forced them to leave in 1960s-1970s. India invaded and crossed China border in 1962 and China just fought back. BY the way, India invaded China together with British army in early 20th. China were invaded many times in the past 200 years by other countries including by Japan. Could you guy try to be knowledgeable for issues related to China and show a bit democracy and hear different voice before your prejudice and ignorant comments.
For God’s sake

by: Jane from: U.S.
December 21, 2012 1:46 PM
Since, geologically, we at one time were one large continent before it broke up about 250 million yrs. ago....then, geologically, the U.S. could then claim that the British Isles were 'part of the U.S. ...since the mountain ranges of our NE coast line match the same material as those of N. Scotland!........this could be said of many countries and islands and countries across the world ....what a ridiculous claim!

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
December 21, 2012 10:06 AM
China's claims to the entire East China Sea and Arunachal Pradesh in India are examples of PRC hegemonism. The CCP views China as the Middle Kingdom & wants to be the sole superpower in Asia. The PRC invaded Tibet in 1950, India in 1962 and attacked Vietnam in 1979. They even claim part of what is now North Korea. Asian nations should stand together, w/ the help of the USA, to stop Chinese imperialism.

by: Hoa Minh Truong from: Australia
December 21, 2012 7:12 AM
China can claim themselves all the world belongs to them, recently they claimed the moon's ownership, that base on a fairy tale. If a day, the Hell has oil, China will say a firs monk came to there for visit his mother, that also bases on the Buddha story...The world couldn't trust any China claims, they apply a saying of French:" La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleurs" ( the powerful people speech is never wrong). Unfortunately, nowadays, China can't do as an once upon a time.
Hoa Minh Truong.
( author of 3 books: the dark journey, good evening Vietnam & from laborer to author)

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 20, 2012 8:08 AM
It's clear when we would like to come true our desire, we should compromize each other when the desire is also our neighbor's desire. Making an arbitrary decision with putting through, quibbling, and dogmatism wouldn't help opponents consent. Chinese leaders should become more democratic so that they could accept diverse interests among international societies. That is the very shortcut China actually could come true its desire finally.

by: Igor from: Russia
December 20, 2012 4:43 AM
According to China's absurd theory, China today should belong to Russian continent. Those who are educated and have common sense cannot stand the stunned reasoning of "the Pirate State of China" any longer! Ha ha ha...

by: Sengupta from: India
December 20, 2012 12:34 AM
PRC is always egocentric and outrageous. What PRC claims regarding Senkaku islands (Japanese territories) is based on its ignorance. It must learn Convention on the Law of the Sea.

by: Khmerkrom from: Preynokor
December 19, 2012 10:08 PM
This is the greed of Chinese, they will not only claim the territories around their country but also to the whole world step-by-step, they will say the world belongs to China. It is time for the countries in dispute with the crazy China to unite to fight back the expansionist Chinese communist. In the past, the Communist claimed that America is empiricism but in actual sense, only the communist propaganda. Shame on you, the greedy Chinese.

by: emenot from: hongkong
December 19, 2012 1:51 PM
What does geology geography have to do with this land grab? If according to their principle, they can also claim Russia, Vietnam and all their bordering sovereign neighbors as their. This is just silly!

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