The Chinese government has submitted a claim to the United Nations that it says has geological proof that the disputed Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea are part of China’s territory. The claim says that China‘s continental shelf extends across the sea to the Okinawa Trough, just off Japan’s southernmost islands of the same name.
A country’s territorial waters are usually seen as 12 nautical miles offshore, while an exclusive economic zone, which grants natural resources control, is 200 nautical miles from the end of its territorial sea. Geological evidence must be submitted to the U.N. for review when a country wants to claim more than the 200 miles. China’s State Oceanic Administration say that geological characteristics clearly prove the continental shelf is a natural extension of the country’s land territory. A decision is not expected soon as the U.N. already has a large accumulation of maritime disputes.
The islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus, but are known as the Diaoyu in China, are outside of 200-nautical-mile limit of China’s waters, but are within Japan’s. Japan has long-held control over the territory, and in mid-September aimed to make its claims over the islands stronger by purchasing them from a private owner. This has resulted in a massive outcry from China and a wave of anti-Japanese nationalism from its people, causing one of the worst bilateral tensions ever experienced between the two countries. Things were finally seen as calming down this month until last week when a Chinese government airplane violated Japan’s airspace over the islands, prompting the Defense Ministry to deploy four F-15 fighter jets.
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