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Korea-China Maritime Boundary Talks: Implications for South China Sea

By Rajaratnam School of International Studies

14 April 2015

Synopsis

The January 2015 meeting between China and South Korea on boundary delimitation in the YellowSea offers a chance to improve bilateral relations and the prospect of extending agreement to otherseas, in particular the South China Sea.

Commentary

THE LEADERS of China and South Korea agreed in July 2014 to launch a working-level group on boundary delimitation in the Yellow Sea. The first meeting took place on 29 January 2015, discussing Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and continental shelves. Contentious issues, including fisheries, the environment, scientific research, and resource development need to be resolved in a way which secures the long-term interests of both countries, and further working meetings will be held this year.

Since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was ratified by China and South Korea in 1996, it has been clear that applying it to the semi-enclosed seas of the Yellow Sea would be impractical, but it does provide a legal framework which might be adapted. In November 2013, China included the Ieodo area in its unilaterally declared air defence identification zone. But both countries have agreed that the scientific research station established on Ieodo by South Korea should be considered as part of the maritime boundaries talks rather than as a territorial dispute. 

Read the full report here.