China Releases List of Chinese Names for Sea Beds in the East China Sea, Conducts Dual-Use Survey Activity in South China Sea

Amidst ris­ing ten­sions in the East and South Chi­na Seas, on June 23, China’s Min­istry of Nat­ur­al Resources released a list of Chi­nese names for 50 under­wa­ter seabeds and geo­graph­ic enti­ties in the East Chi­na Sea, near Japan’s Senkaku Islands – an appar­ent bid to fur­ther exert Beijing’s claims over the mar­itime exclu­sive eco­nom­ic zones of oth­er coun­tries in the region.

In recent months, reports sug­gest that Bei­jing has also accel­er­at­ed its pres­ence in the South Chi­na Sea, includ­ing through the deploy­ment of deep sea research and sur­vey ves­sels that col­lect mete­o­ro­log­i­cal, geo­phys­i­cal, acoustic, hydro­graph­ic, and oth­er sci­en­tif­ic mea­sures.  Experts believe that this accu­mu­la­tion of data to be serv­ing dual-use (civ­il and mil­i­tary) pur­pos­es.  Chi­nese research sur­veys have report­ed­ly been detect­ed off the coast of Malaysia, Japan, the Philip­pines, India, Viet­nam, and Tai­wan.  At the sur­face, the sur­vey data is meant for eco­log­i­cal research and study, how­ev­er experts also note that the data will help Chi­na map the sea floor of the East and South Chi­na Seas, ulti­mate­ly boost­ing sub­ma­rine nav­i­ga­bil­i­ty of these areas.

Days pri­or to the release of the list, a Chi­nese sub­ma­rine was dis­cov­ered with­in a 24 nau­ti­cal mile bound­ary of Japan­ese ter­ri­to­ry, accord­ing to Japan’s Min­istry of Defense.  Tokyo also released data prov­ing that Chi­nese state-owned ships have main­tained a con­sis­tent pres­ence around the Senkaku islands since mid-April 2020.

Chi­na cur­rent­ly has the world’s largest fleet of research and sur­vey ves­sels.  Many of the iden­ti­fied research ships are direct­ly reg­is­tered with Chi­nese gov­ern­ment enti­ties Includ­ing China’s Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey agency, the Min­istry of Nat­ur­al Resources, and the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences.