Countries want to be fatter, and fatter

Countries want to be fatter, and fatter

By Alex Yeung, University of Hong Kong

National flags instil pride in citizens every time they are raised. But nowadays more countries are using them for another purpose: to claim "new" territory.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country has the right to claim an extension of its continental shelf. Countries are doing so to get the rights to harvest the lucrative petroleum, natural gas and mineral resources underneath seabeds.

Explorers of the Russian expedition Arktika 2007 planted the Russian flag on the seabed of the Lomonosov Ridge - which the country believes is an extension of its landmass. This ridge in the Arctic Ocean has also drawn the interest of Danish and Canadian scientists in attempts to prove it is an extension of their countries. It remains a complicated issue as to how the icing on this very tasty cake would be split among big kids.

Disputes on sea ownership may seem irrelevant to Hong Kong, but the recent Japanese claim of an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around Okinotorishima - an atoll with two islets over 1,700km south of Tokyo - brings the problem closer to home.

Japan might get fishing and mining rights extending 200 nautical miles from the coast. China thinks there should be no EEZ because the area is just a bunch of rocks. It is again a matter of who would secure more natural resources to exploit.

The world is doing all this in response to the ever-increasing demand for natural resources. More mining activities would mean more potential oil spill disasters.

Just like with overweight people, I believe we should closely monitor the health problems of countries that want to be fatter.



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