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South Korea to submit claim on East China Sea shelf to U.N.

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will submit a claim to an extended portion of seabed beyond its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the East China Sea to a United Nations body this year, media reported Sunday, a move that could rekindle territorial disputes with China and Japan.

The South Korean government will submit an official document to claim the extended EEZ portion to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) by the end of this year, the Yonhap News Agency quoted an unidentified government official as saying.

“In order to submit an official document to the U.N. CLCS, the government is reviewing and processing related data,” the official was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

In the document, Seoul is expected to claim that the Korean Peninsula’s naturally extended continental shelf stretches to the Okinawa Trough in the East China Sea. It means the country’s statutory EEZ stretches beyond the 200 nautical miles.

The disputed area in the East China Sea is believed to contain natural gas and oil deposits.

The government official was quoted as saying the formal claim to the U.N. commission this time is likely to prompt Beijing and Tokyo to take similar steps, reigniting fierce disputes among the Asian neighbors.

Comments from government officials were not immediately available.

In 2009, South Korea lodged a similar claim, not in an official form but in a preliminary information submission with the U.N commission, a panel created under the U.N. Law of the Sea treaty to review and certify the legitimacy of such sea territorial claims.

China has claimed on the Okinawa Trough, arguing the trough is part of its natural continental shelf extension.

South Korea is scheduled to hold working-level meetings with China and Japan, separately, to discuss issues on the sea border demarcation later this year.

Reporting by Sung-Won Shim; Editing by Yoko Nishikawa