On July 3, 2014, the President of China, Xi Jinping, made a historic visit to Seoul. It holds significance because this was the first time a Chinese President has visited Seoul before traveling to Pyongyang. Moreover, the Joint Statement released as an outcome of the summit between President Xi and President Park Geun-hye, includes some significant agreements for furthering cooperation on maritime security. For instance, according to Paragraph 5 of the Joint Statement, both countries will resume negotiations in 2015 on maritime delimitation. On August 3, 2000, China and the ROK concluded a bilateral fisheries agreement, pending final agreement on maritime delimitation. If an agreement on a boundary between the two countries’ EEZs and the Continental Shelves is therefore concluded, this will resolve two maritime disputes existing between them. These are: 1) the Ieodo issue (a submerged maritime feature that both the ROK and China claim), and 2) the conservation of fishery resources depleted through illegal fishing activities mainly conducted by Chinese vessels around the Northern Limit Line (NLL).

To resolve these disputes through negotiations, there are three significant preconditions that must be agreed upon. They include: 1) a single (or multipurpose) maritime boundary which encompasses the EEZs as well as the Continental Shelves; 2) determination of relevant coastlines and sea areas including waters around Ieodo and up to the limits of the NLL; and 3) a finding that the Continental Shelf between them is a shared continental shelf whose concept has been well established by the precedents of various international tribunals. If the agreement on the single maritime boundary is concluded, the year 2015 will be a milestone for future cooperation on maritime security between China and the ROK.

About Chang-Hoon Shin

Shin Chang-Hoon is a Research Fellow and the Director of the Center for Global Governance at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. He was senior research fellow at the Korea Institute of Maritime Strategy and has been a part-time lecturer public international law and the law of the sea at the graduate school of law in Seoul National University.