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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

South China Sea mapping underway

By Zou Le (Global Times)

15:36, March 27, 2012

China may step up its exploration of the South China Sea to reinforce its territorial claims, analysts said Monday, after authorities announced that geographical surveys of the area are underway.

"The majority of the disputed waters used to be beyond our reach because we seldom put our claims into action," Zhang Yunling, director of the Institute for International Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

"By drawing a map, the country can reinforce its jurisdiction claim in the South China Sea, and further actions may follow, such as exploiting resources near the Nansha Islands," Zhang said.

According to a report released by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASMG) on Sunday, a work group jointly set up by 13 government agencies will continue geographical surveying of the South China Sea and draw a map of the sea or its islands to "declare China's stance" on territorial issues.

Similar mapping work will also be carried out on the Diaoyu Islands and other important areas in the East China Sea when the time is right, it added.

The 13 government agencies include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Commerce.

"We are currently carrying out relevant work, and further details will be released at a proper time," an official with NASMG's map management office told the Global Times on condition of anonymity.

China claims indisputable sovereignty of the Nansha and Xisha islands and their adjacent waters, but several countries in the region, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, have made competing claims.

Zheng Zemin, a researcher with the Hainan-based National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said that through the mapping, authorities may clarify the specific locations of the so-called "nine-dashed line" or "U-shape line" by setting their longitudes and latitudes.

"They may also survey the locations of islands and reefs currently on record, which have changed due to tides over the past decades," Zheng said.

Zhuang Guotu, director of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, downplayed the possibility of the mapping work escalating tensions.

"A spat is inevitable but tensions are unlikely to escalate as maintaining cooperation despite disputes has been a basic consensus that China and relevant countries hold," Zhuang said.

Yang Jingjie contributed to this story


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