Over the course of the last several months, China has found itself at the center of a rather spirited international "debate" over the country’s land reclamation efforts in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
To recap, Beijing has created more than 1,500 acres of sovereign territory in the Spratly archipelago by using dredgers to construct man-made islands atop reefs. Although China isn’t the first country to embark on reclamation efforts in the region, its projects have been described by the US and its allies as far more ambitious than those of its neighbors.
The situation escalated rapidly when the Chinese Navy threatened a US spy plane with a CNN crew aboard. Shortly thereafter, the US claimed to have spotted artillery on one of the islands and the entire situation culminated in a hilarious propaganda campaign by the Chinese apparently designed to show that life on its new islands was really all about girls, gardening, pigs, and puppies.
Now, China finds itself at the center of yet another maritime dispute, this time over the construction of oil and gas platforms in the East China Sea. Reuters has more:
China reserves the right to a "necessary reaction" after Japan issued a defense review that called on Beijing to stop building oil and gas exploration platforms close to disputed waters in the East China Sea, the Defense Ministry has said.
In the paper issued on Tuesday, Tokyo expressed concern that Chinese drills could tap reservoirs that extend into Japan's waters.
"This kind of action completely lays bare the two-faced nature of Japan's foreign policy and has a detrimental impact on peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region," China's Defense Ministry said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.
China would further evaluate Japan's defense review, or white paper, when the full text is issued and would then make a "necessary reaction depending on the situation", it said.
In an escalation of the spat, Japan released aerial photos of China's construction activities in the area, accusing Beijing of unilateral development and a halfhearted attitude toward a 2008 agreement to jointly develop resources there.
"China's development activities in the East China Sea have shown no signs of ceasing. Given rising concerns within and outside of Japan over China's various attempts to change the status quo, we have decided to release what can be released in an appropriate manner," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference.
Apparently "what can be released" are the following images:
And here is a map showing where the rigs are located in relation to a demarcation line that separates the two countries' exclusive economic zones.
So what's the problem, you ask? It seems as though all of the structures are on China's side of the line. Here's Bloomberg with more:
Japan’s foreign ministry unveiled a map and photographs of what it said were 16 Chinese marine platforms close to Japan’s side of the disputed East China Sea.
The platforms are on the Chinese side of a geographical median line that Japan contends should mark the border between their exclusive economic zones. Japan has long expressed concern that such developments could siphon gas out of undersea structures that extend to its own side.
So essentially, Japan believes that China may be attempting to steal from Japan by building rigs right next to the line and sucking undersea gas back to the Chinese side. Or, in other words:
As for Beijing's take on the matter, the foreign ministry says its exploration activities are "justified, reasonable and legitimate."
Whatever the case may be, the dispute won't do anything to help Sino-Japanese relations and although Suga claims the issue won't derail diplomatic progress, one has to imagine that Beijing has had just about enough of being told what it can and can't do in what it considers to be territorial waters.
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Full statement from Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Google translated):
In recent years, China has to revitalize the resource development in the East China Sea, as a government, the Chinese side of the geographic middle line during the day, it has been confirmed a total of 16 groups structures so far. 2 East China Sea exclusive economic zone and continental shelf boundary is is not yet defined, Japan is in a position of that should be carried out the demarcation that is based on the median line during the day. In this way, in a situation that is not yet defined boundaries, although the middle and at the Chinese side of the median line the day, it is extremely regrettable that the Chinese side has promoted the unilateral development activities. The government, for the Chinese side, it is possible to stop the unilateral development activities, it was consistent for the cooperation between Japan and China on the resource development of the East China Sea "in June 2008 agreement," As to respond to early resumption of negotiations on the implementation of, it is where you are asking once again strongly.
Japan's legal position on resource development in (Reference) East China Sea both in one day, based on the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, has the title of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf from the territorial sea baseline to 200 sea miles . Since the distance between each of the territorial sea baseline during the day when you are face to face across the East China Sea is less than 400 sea miles, for the part of the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf up to 200 nautical miles both overlap, bounded by day intermediate agreement there is a need to define a. In light of the relevant provisions and international precedents UNCLOS, in order to define the boundary in such waters may define the boundaries based on the intermediate line is a the equitable solution. (Note: one sea mile = 1.852 km, 200 sea miles = 370.4 km) for two (1) this, the Chinese side, the demarcation in the East China Sea, a natural extension of the continental shelf, the East China Sea of characteristics such as mainland and the island of contrasts Based in and are going to should be carried out, after the demarcation is not recognized by the intermediate line, without the Chinese side shows the assumed specific boundary line, claim that the are naturally extended to the Okinawa Trough for the continental shelf doing. (2) On the other hand, it is a natural extension theory, in the 1960s, such as that used in the case law on the demarcation of the adjacent country continental shelf, is a concept that has been taken in the past of international law. Based on the relevant provisions and the subsequent international precedents of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which was adopted in 1982, upon the distance between the opposing countries to define the boundaries in waters of less than 400 nautical miles, the room found a natural extension theory rather, also, there is no legal meaning in the seabed terrain, such as the Okinawa trough (groove of the seabed). Therefore, the idea that can claim a continental shelf up to the Okinawa Trough, lacks evidence In light of the current international law. 3 standing on such premise to this, our country is, the border has been taken the position of the course and that our country has the ability to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Japanese side of the body of water from at least the middle line in the waters of non-defined . This thing is totally without that abandoned the title of intermediate line beyond, last until the boundary is defined is for the time being that the exercise of the sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the waters to the middle line. Therefore, day middle of demarcation has not been made ??in the East China Sea, and, in a situation where the Chinese side does not recognize any claims relating to the middle line of our country, and exclusive economic zone of our country up to 200 sea miles from Japan's territorial waters baseline no different in fact that has the title of continental shelf.