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China criticizes Japan for ‘selfish’

China has criticized Japan’s attempt to expand its claim to waters off a reef in the Philippine Sea for “selfish interests”.

“Under 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 continental shelf. Japan’s claim to an exclusive economic zone and shelf mainland in this reef area is contrary to international law,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said at a regular press conference yesterday.

The comment came after the government Japan filed a petition with the United Nations to establish an exclusive economic zone stretching 370 km around the Okinotori reef. If approved, Japan will have exclusive rights to explore and use marine resources in an area of ​​more than 400,000 square kilometers.

Tokyo has also submitted a request to the United Nations Committee on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to extend the continental shelf limit beyond the baseline by more than 370 km, allowing Japan to have an additional area of ​​about 300,000 square kilometers.

Okinotori is located 1,740 km south of Tokyo in Japan and is the southernmost land administered by Japan.

Okinotori reef area.  Photo: Kyodo.

Okinotori reef area. Image: Kyodo.

The claims to the reef have been controversial with neighboring countries, including China and South Korea, which argue that Japan cannot claim the area.

Spokesman Zhao Lap Kien said Okinotori has a surface area of ​​less than 10 square kilometers at high tide, but Japan is claiming jurisdiction of nearly 700,000 square kilometers. “This move is infringing upon international waters and the international seabed, undermining the common interests of the international community for selfish interests,” he said.

The Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Japan signed in 1983, defines that “rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic activity shall not have an exclusive economic zone”.

China has also been accused of making claims contrary to the convention, including disputed waters in the South China Sea East Sea. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2016 ruled that China’s claim of “historic rights” and “nine-dash line” covering 3.5 million square kilometers in the South China Sea had no legal basis according to the law. International law. The PCA’s ruling is legally binding and binding, but has no enforcement mechanism.

Thanh Tam (Follow SCMP)

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