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Friday, July 4, 2014, 08:59

China, ROK aim to settle sea boundaries

By Wu Jiao in Seoul and Li Xiaokun in Beijing
China, ROK aim to settle sea boundaries
President Xi Jinping walks with his wife Peng Liyuan after arriving at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam on Thursday. Xi has expressed the hope that his visit will inject new vitality into his country’s relations with this Asian neighbor. (Lan Hongguang / Xinhua)

China and South Korea said maritime demarcation talks will officially start in 2015, with the goal of eliminating one of the few concerns in the thriving bilateral relationship.

President Xi Jinping and his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye reached the agreement during their meeting in the Blue House, the executive office and official residence of heads of state of South Korea, on Thursday.

The two countries have overlapping claims on exclusive economic zones.

Xi and Park agreed in June last year, when Park visited Beijing, to restart negotiations as soon as possible.

A joint statement issued after Thursday’s meeting stressed the significance of maritime demarcation for bilateral ties and cooperation on the sea.

Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency quoted a government source as saying that senior diplomats from China and South Korea met on June 13 in Seoul, discussing the demarcation issue, but the meeting — the first of its type in three years — failed to produce a detailed agreement.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has maintained the stance that ownership of Suyan Rock, a submerged feature in the waters of the exclusive economic zones claimed by both China and South Korea, should be determined through negotiation.

China and South Korea currently have a consensus that the rock does not have territorial status, the ministry said, and the two sides have no dispute on that point.

Yonhap cited an analysis saying that negotiation of the demarcation issue was stalled in past years partially because of discrepancies in the stances of the two governments. Another reason given was that Beijing was busy with handling territorial disputes with Vietnam that were far more serious than the maritime demarcation issue with the ROK, Yonhap said.

“The ambiguous maritime border between China and South Korea has resulted in a series of issues, including differences over Suyan Rock and repeated clashes between Chinese fishermen and the ROK Coast Guard in the Yellow Sea,” said Zhang Liangui, a researcher of Korean studies at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.

“Based on South Korean media reports, Seoul is deliberating in the same direction with Beijing — the early settlement of the border issue will eliminate many problems.”

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