China on Tuesday criticized the Japanese government for planting coral around the uninhabited Pacific atoll of Okinotori, saying that the action runs counter to international conventions.
"Okinotori is not an island but a reef which is submerged at high tides," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a routine press conference.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS), Okinotori --an uninhabited reef some 1,740 km south of Tokyo -- does not have an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf, said Qin.
"Japan hopes to expand its maritime territory around Okinotori by planting coral. This action does not accord with recognized international conventions and affects the interests of other countries," the spokesman said.
Japanese officials on Monday said they had begun planting coral on Okinotori in a four-million-dollar project to defend its territory.