Maritime border talks start with ROK

Updated: 2015-12-23 08:00


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China and the Republic of Korea started their first formal talks on maritime demarcation in Seoul on Tuesday.

Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin and his ROK counterpart Cho Tae-yul headed their teams.

The two countries have overlapping exclusive economic zones in the Yellow Sea. The ROK insists that a demarcation line be drawn in the middle of the sea area, while Beijing says other factors, such as coastline length, should be considered.

The ambiguous maritime border has led to frequent clashes between Chinese fishermen and the ROK Coast Guard.

The issue has been raised regularly at bilateral meetings, and 14 rounds of talks at director-general level were held between 1996 and 2008 but failed to reach any agreement, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Analysts said Beijing has committed to resolving maritime disputes peacefully through bilateral talks.

Li Jinming, a researcher of maritime law at Xiamen University, said fruitful talks with the ROK will show countries involved in disputes over the South China Sea that bilateral talks on such issues can be effective, and there is no need to resort to international arbitration.

Cao Qun, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said in an article that "certain countries" are trying to bring outside intervention to a bilateral dispute. This has "severely disrupted trust between countries in the region and cast a shadow on regional stability and cooperation".

The China-ROK talks "reflect the two countries' sincerity and will to solve the problem based on respect for historical facts and international law", he said.

A free trade agreement between the two countries took effect on Sunday.

Hu Dekun, a researcher of boundary and ocean studies at Wuhan University, said friendship and trust between China and the ROK provides a political foundation for the talks and for settlement of the issue.

However, Hu added, "It will take a long time and many rounds of talks to settle the issue, as ... the two have a different understanding of international maritime law and overlapping claims of maritime rights, which calls for consultation and compromise by both sides."

Cao said the talks will involve allocation of fishery resources, which affects "the lives of tens of thousands of fishermen in both countries".

But the two nations will surely find a way out to solve the disputes so long as both are sincere, patient and stay away from interference by third parties, he said.