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.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
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!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs