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UN decision over Japan’s ‘island’ claim shows justice

By Zhong Sheng (People's Daily)

16:32, May 18, 2012

Edited and Translated by People's Daily Online

The U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) has decided not to adopt Japan’s claim of an outer continental shelf based on Okinotori Atoll, meaning that the country cannot classify the atoll as an island to illegally expand waters under its jurisdiction, according to a statement recently published on the website of the United Nations. The commission has maintained the international maritime order and safeguarded international justice by performing its duties in a fair and independent way.

It matters much whether Okinotori Atoll can be classified as an island. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an island can have the territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf, while rocks that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no EEZ or continental shelf. Any attempt to illegally expand territorial waters simply based on an atoll will seriously damage the fair and reasonable international maritime order.

Okinotori is an atoll in the western Pacific Ocean far away from Japan, but the country has insisted that it is an island, which is entitled to a continental shelf and an EEZ covering more than 100,000 square kilometers. Over the past 30 years, Japan has spent heavily fortifying the atoll and creating artificial facilities there, in order to develop the area into island status.

Shockingly, Japan submitted to the CLCS information on the limits of a continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines of Okinotori Atoll in November 2008, in an attempt to take advantage of the commission to seek legitimacy and international recognition for its illegal claim.

Japan’s illegal claim has unsurprisingly received strong opposition from the international community. After Japan’s submission of its claim to the CLCS, China and South Korea have repeatedly expressed their concerns to the U.N. secretary-general, and clearly noted that Japan’s claim of an outer continental shelf based on Okinotori Atoll violates international law, and damages the interests of the entire international community. The two countries have called for the commission to ignore Japanese claims over the geopolitical classification of Okinotori Atoll.

After nearly four years of deliberation and investigation, the commission decided not to adopt Japan’s claim, saying that before the concerns of China and South Korea are solved, it cannot take action on Japan’s claim regarding the atoll. The fair and reasonable decision is a de facto rejection to Japan’s illegal claim, and serves the overall interests of the international community.

Japan is unwise in its attempt to practice deception when knowing that it cannot hide the truth, untrustworthy to flagrantly violate the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a contracting state, and is unethical to damage the interests of the international community for its own benefits. No wonder its illegal claim failed to gain international recognition.

Oceans connect the world’s five continents and various civilizations. A fair and reasonable international maritime order is of great significance to maintaining international peace and stability and promoting global prosperity and development. Japan should abide by international norms, and give up its illegal claims. International justice will not permit Okinotori Atoll to be classified as an island.

Read the Chinese version:国际正义不许冲之鸟变礁为“岛”


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