China’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that China and South Korea will hold their first round of talks on maritime delimitation over the Yellow Sea in the South Korean capital of Seoul on December 22.
The talks, led by South Korean Second Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, will be held in Seoul next Tuesday, the South Korean ministry said in a release.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his South Korean counterpart Park Geun Hye agreed to launch negotiations during Xi's visit to South Korea in July last year, China News Service reports.
They had agreed to launch negotiations this year on the demarcation of their maritime boundaries amid tension over their overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs).
Ieodo, a submerged reef controlled by Seoul, lies 149 kilometers southwest of Korea's southernmost island of Marado and 247 kilometers northeast of the nearest Chinese island Tongdao. South Korea has scientific research facilities on Ieodo.
China hopes the first-ever formal talks with South Korea aimed at resolving a maritime boundary spat would not only remove a rock of contention but also advance geopolitical aims like its territorial claims in the South China Sea, say analysts.
Global intelligence website Stratfor suggests that China wants to expand its relationship with South Korea in a bid to disrupt the structure of Seoul's alliance with the United States
It also states that China may use maritime talks with South Korea to illustrate their commitment to bilateral communication to its rivals in the South China Sea.
The maritime dispute between China and South Korea began
in 1996 after they ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) and expanded their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) to 200 nautical miles from their coastlines.