IHO reaches agreement on identifying seas with numbers amid East Sea naming row

SEOUL, The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) has reached agreement on a proposal to mark global sea areas with unique numerical identifiers rather than specific names, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.
The consensus, likely to be finalized early next month, capped decades of diplomatic efforts by Seoul to revise the existing IHO guidelines referring to the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan only as the Sea of Japan, rather than the South Korean name East Sea.
During a virtual session of the IHO Assembly on Monday, 65 member states joined the discussions on the proposal to adopt a new digital dataset, known as S-130, as a standard for a world map of oceans, as the current one, dubbed S-23, remains outmoded.
IHO Secretary General Mathias Jonas has made the proposal amid persistent disputes over sea naming and other issues among IHO member states.
“Assembly Chair Marc Van der Donck said in the closing remarks that during the development of the new standards designating geographical sea areas only with unique numerical identifiers, the S-23 will be made public as an IHO publication to demonstrate the evolutionary process from the analogue to the digital era, and he concluded the proposal by consensus,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry stressed that the participants accepted by consensus the original version of the IHO secretary general’s proposal that the S-23 will be made public not as a valid standard but only as a publication displaying the evolutionary transition to a new one.
The ministry dismissed as “distortion” a Japanese news report that, based on the outcome of this week’s IHO Assembly discussions, the Sea of Japan will continue to be used for international nautical charts, with the numerical identifiers used only for digital charts.
After the Assembly session ends on Thursday, member states will look at the draft of its discussions in writing, with the outcome of their consultations expected to be finalized on Dec. 1 (Korea time), the ministry said.
The sea naming issue is a source of diplomatic friction between South Korea and Japan.
Seoul had argued that both names — the East Sea and the Sea of Japan — should be juxtaposed on global maps, as its views were not reflected in the current third edition of the S-23 published in 1953 when it was not an IHO member.
S-23 is designed for consistent nautical cartography and safe maritime navigation. The IHO had sought to update the current third edition but failed to do so amid differences among nations over sea naming and other complex issues.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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