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Japanese 'island' claims dismissed by UN

By Zhao Shengnan and Zhang Yunbi  (China Daily)

08:18, May 17, 2012

UN move means Tokyo unable to declare economic zone around atoll

Tokyo's bid to upgrade the status of a Pacific atoll into an island, and claim an exclusive economic zone around it, was dismissed by the United Nations.

China welcomed the decision as "fair and reasonable".

"Japan's claim of an outer continental shelf based on Okinotori Atoll was not acknowledged by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, said on Wednesday, quoting information released by the UN agency.

The UN dismissal prevents Japan claiming the Okinotori Atoll as an island. An "island" designation allows a state to proclaim a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone around it and sole rights to resources within the zone.

The atoll is a group of rocks, some 1,700 kilometers south of Tokyo. Japan has spent large sums of money for more than two decades on buttressing it to prevent it from disappearing into the sea.

Japanese officials said in April that the UN commission agreed with Japan that the sea basin north of the atoll was part of its continental shelf. This, they said, classified Okinotori as an island and territorial "base point".

Hong said that Japan submitted a request to the commission covering some 740,000 square kilometers of what it called its continental shelf. But the commission recognized only 310,000 sq km.

Crucially, the area where the atoll is based was not recognized, Hong said.

"Japan's allegation that Okinotori Atoll has been adopted by the commission as an ‘island' is absolutely baseless," Hong said.

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