Despite Japan’s protestations that they should not be involved, the United Nations will be studying the validity of China‘s scientific claims over a disputed group of islands in the East China Sea. Both Japan and China, as well as Taiwan are claiming sovereignty over the uninhabited islands.
Called Senkaku (Japan), Diaoyu (China) and Tiaoyutai (Taiwan), the islands are being claimed by the three countries probably due to its location near rich fishing grounds, as well as its potential gas and oil reserves. In a report submitted by China to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, they claim that the islands are part of the continental shelf in the East China Sea which is just a natural prolongation of China’s land territory. It says that the “Diaoyu Dao upfold zone” is between the East China Sea shelf basin and the Okinawa Trough and the Trough is the termination of its continental shelf.
Under the UN convention, a country can extend its 200-nautical-mile economic zone if they can prove that the continental shelf is a natural extension of its land mass. But the UN only assesses the scientific validity and any disputes have to be settled between states. They are including China’s claim in the provisional agenda of a meeting set from July 15 to Aug 30 in New York.
Japan has written a letter to the UN mission saying that based on historical facts and international law, the Senkakus are “an inherent part of the territory of Japan”. China responded by saying that Japan’s claims are “illegal and invalid.” Tensions between the two countries are increasing, despite calls by the United States through Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to let “cool heads” prevail. Japanese military planes have scrambled against Chinese planes flying closely through airspace over the islands while patrol vessels from both countries are playing cat-and-mouse in the waters of the disputed islands.[via Straits Times]