China starts Maping Disputed seas including Philippines' province and Island of Japan

In the deep of maritime disputes with several of its neighbors, China on Tuesday (March 27, 2012) said it was mapping South China Sea (SCS) or also called West Philippines Sea (WPS) with an aim to step up exploration for oil and gas and to reinforce its territorial claims of the Philippines and Vietnam Waters.

China may step up its exploration of South China Sea to reinforce its territorial claims following announcement that geographical surveys of the area are underway, state-run Global Times reported. "The majority of the disputed waters used to be beyond our reach because we seldom put our claims into action," Zhang Yunling, director of the Institute for International Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the daily.

"By drawing a map, the country can reinforce its jurisdiction claim in the South China Sea particularly in the Spratlys where the Philippines is in control, and further actions may follow, such as exploiting resources near the Nansha Islands," Zhang said.

Located south of China's coast, SCS is connected with narrow straits with Pacific Ocean and covers 3.5 million sq km of the ocean.

China claims the entire SCS as its own. "We owned everything"  Its claim however has been contested by Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan which assert it is part their maritime waters and 200 Nautical Miles Exclusive Economic Zone granted by the United Nations International Laws of Sea (UNCLOS).

China overlapped its claim including the province of the Philippines in Palawan islands and parts of Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Much to China's disappointment, the US extended tacit support to the small countries and stepped its presence in the Pacific region, calling for peaceful resolution of the disputes.

India's ONGC also drew Beijing's ire by taking up exploration in the blocks in SCS claimed by Vietnam's Exclusive Economic zone in Vietnam shore.

According to a report released by China's National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geo-information (NASMG) a working group jointly set up by 13 government agencies will continue geographical surveying of the South China Sea and draw a map of the sea or its islands to "declare China's stance" on territorial issues.

Similar mapping work will also be carried out on the Diaoyu Islands and other important areas in the East China Sea, (ECS) when the time is right, it said.

Diaoyu islands, known as Senkaku islands in Japan are currently under the administrative control of Tokyo which zealously reasserts its control over the uninhabited islands.

Japan also prohibits fishing by Chinese there which resulted in several skirmishes in the recent times.

"We are currently carrying out relevant work, and further details will be released at a proper time," an official with NASMG's map management office said.

China claims indisputable sovereignty of the Spratlys Islands (Nansha and Xisha islands) and their adjacent waters which are within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines, but several countries in the region, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, have made competing claims and tried to defend their territory and their EEZ.

Zheng Zemin, a researcher with the Hainan-based National Institute for SCS /WPS Studies, said that through the mapping, authorities may clarify the specific locations of the so-called "nine-dashed line" or "U-shape line" by setting their longitudes and latitudes.

U-shape line or nine-dashed line was a first time claim of china to all the waters in the West Philippines Sea or South China Sea last year 2009.

ASEAN countries who are affected by the claim of china have lodge their protest to the United Nations but China downplayed the protest and instead they used force to drive away Filipino Fishermen in the Philippines Waters claiming as their owned and cut the survey cable of Petro Vietnam

"They may also survey the locations of islands and reefs currently on record, which have changed due to tides over the past decades," Zheng said. Zhuang Guotu, director of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, downplayed the possibility of the mapping work escalating tensions. "A spat is inevitable but tensions are unlikely to escalate as maintaining cooperation despite disputes has been a basic consensus that China and relevant countries hold," Zhuang said.

The planned survey of China to the reefs and Island of the Spratlys which are within the Philippine territory would become a big challenge for China as the Philippines Navy and Coastguards with the Support of the United States and Japan are closely monitoring the Area.

Any poachers entering the Philippines territory in Spratlys islands without prior approval from the Philippines Government would expect for arrest and detention or another protest to the United Nations to intervene China's invasion.

The United States is eyeing now to set-up their spy drones in Cocos Island south of the Philippines to closely monitor the activity in the West Philippines Sea or other know as South China Sea.

US Warship are now in its routinary visit to the ports of the Philippines as part of courtesy call and US Pivot to Asia.

April 2012 Balikatan Exercises between USA and the Philippines could be the biggest preparation of the Philippines and USA for possible China's invasion to the Philippines territory in Spratlys Archipelago. Philippines is a close ally of the USA in the Asia Pacific,   

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