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.