U.N. to consider validity of China's claim over disputed islands
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations is planning to consider later this year the scientific validity of a claim by China that a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea are part of its territory, although Japan says the world body should not be involved.
Tensions over the uninhabited islands - located near rich fishing grounds and potentially huge oil and gas reserves - flared after Japan's government purchased them from a private Japanese owner in September, sparking violent anti-Japanese protests across China and a military standoff.
Taiwan also claims the islands, known as the Diaoyu islands in China, the Senkaku islands in Japan and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan.
It was not immediately clear if the U.N. involvement would increase the likelihood the China-Japan dispute would be resolved peacefully. But launching an international legal process that should yield a neutral scientific opinion could reduce the temperature for now in Beijing's spat with Tokyo.
In a submission to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, China says the continental shelf in the East China Sea is a natural prolongation of China's land territory and that it includes the disputed islands.
Under the U.N. convention, a country can extend its 200-nautical-mile economic zone if it can prove that the continental shelf is a natural extension of its land mass. The U.N. commission assesses the scientific validity of claims, but any disputes have to be resolved between states, not by the commission.
China said the "Diaoyu Dao upfold zone" - the islands - is located between the East China Sea shelf basin and the Okinawa Trough. "The Okinawa Trough is the natural termination of the continental shelf of (the East China Sea)," it said.
China also told the commission that it was still negotiating with other states on the delimitation of the continental shelf. Continued...