China trying to name undersea features near Japan

Beijing has been accelerating moves to expand its maritime interests not only in the ocean but also on seabeds, according to Yomiuri Shimbun.
Beijing has been accelerating moves to expand its maritime interests not only in the ocean but also on seabeds, according to Yomiuri Shimbun.PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA • Beijing has been accelerating moves to expand its maritime interests not only in the ocean but also on seabeds, according to Yomiuri Shimbun.

It said the Chinese government has conducted research on undersea features near Japan's exclusive economic zone and other areas, and filed many applications with a subpanel of the Monaco- based International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO) to name them in Chinese last year.

An IHO subpanel - the Sub- Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN) - is in charge of deciding internationally standardised names for undersea features.

According to SCUFN's 2016 report on Dec 21, the State Oceanic Administration of China filed 50 applications to name undersea features in Chinese last year. This is more than double the previous year's figure, the report said.

Sixteen applications were accepted while 34 have not been accepted for reasons such as there being grave concern that naming them in Chinese may spark disputes with coastal countries.

The applications that have not been accepted include those related to eight sites inside and outside the Southern Kyushu-Palau Ridge Region, which stretches from Okinotorishima to Palau, and 21 sites around the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

To gain rights to develop undersea mineral resources, Japan has filed an application with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. It requested the extension of its continental shelf in the Southern Kyushu-Palau Ridge Region, Yomiuri Shimbun said. However, examination by the UN body has been postponed due to opposition from China and South Korea.

In 2012, China's applications to give Chinese names to undersea features in an area 450km southeast of Miyakojima island in Okinawa Prefecture were accepted. The area is close to Japan's exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'China trying to name undersea features near Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe