Ieodo is not a disputed territory and both South Korea and China are aware that this submerged rock in the East China Sea cannot be claimed by either side, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.
The ministry unofficially announced its position as news reports unveiled China had recently renewed its territorial claim over Ieodo by demanding South Korea halt its work to hoist a sunken commercial ship near the rock.
Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which stipulates that a submerged rock cannot be claimed as territory by any country, South Korea and China agreed not to dispute the ownership of Ieodo.
South Korea effectively maintains control of Ieodo, which is closer to Korea than any other country. It is located 149 kilometers southwest of Korea’s southernmost island of Marado and 247 kilometers northeast of the nearest Chinese island Tongdao.
According to earlier media reports, which quoted government sources, South Korean workers had been trying to raise the 50,905-ton bulk carrier, which sank near the submerged rock in April, when Beijing sent patrol boats demanding they stop the work in what it claims as its exclusive economic zone.
“There is no particular dispute with China over Ieodo,” a Foreign Ministry official said on the condition of anonymity. “Hoisting work is continuing as the two sides agreed to deal with the issue without disputes.”
Ieodo is internationally called Socotra Rock and is submerged 4.6 meters below sea level.
The rock has an observation facility, built in 1989 by the Korean government to measure ocean currents and accumulate data for weather forecasting, fishery and environmental protection and conservation.
Korea abides by the international law but insists the rock lie within Korea’s exclusive economic zone ― 200 nautical miles from its coast. China disputes Korea’s claim and called Korea’s activities “illegal” as recently as 2006.