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China’s cover-up of oil spill

Posted July. 07, 2011 08:18,   


China has hidden a massive oil spill in Bohai Bay near the Yellow Sea for a month. China told reporters Tuesday that oil was leaked from an offshore oilfield in the bay on June 4 and 7. The oil spill is known to have affected 840 square nautical kilometers, which is 40 percent larger than Seoul. Why did China cover up the accident for such a long time? It is also doubtful whether it removed the spilled oil. Chinese netizens distrust government announcements and say the damage will be larger than what Beijing said.

The Chinese government fueled suspicion by keeping mum on a message about the oil spill posted on the Chinese social networking site Weibo at the end of last month. China`s State Oceanic Administration belatedly said it sealed the oil well that caused the leak and almost removed the oil that spread to the surface of the sea. It failed, however, to announce how much oil was leaked. Obscure environmental policies of China have not only created public distrust but also caused neighboring countries to feel jittery. If China fails to completely remove the spilled oil and let the polluted seawater flow into the Yellow Sea, this will damage only North Korea but also South Korea.

Zhang Yansheng, director of the Institute for International Economic Research at the National Development and Reform Commission of China, told an international symposium Monday on the effects of Japan’s massive earthquake and cooperation among South Korea, China and Japan that joint responses to disasters are urgent. “With the interdependence of (South) Korea, China and Japan increasing, effectiveness is growing but risks are also increasing,” he said. Information sharing is a prerequisite to joint responses to a variety of disasters, however. China’s cover-up of the oil spill makes Zhang`s comments ring hollow.

When damage from the radiation leak from the collapsed Japanese nuclear reactor worsened, China blasted Japan for failing to release necessary information. If Beijing, which lashed out at Tokyo’s poor response to the disaster, had attempted to cover up the oil spill, it had no right to urge the joint response by the three Northeast Asian countries.

When an oil spill occurred in waters off the coast of Taean County, South Korea, in 2007, Seoul wasted no time to inform Beijing of the accident. The intent was to take joint measures with China in case of polluted seawater flowing into China. Beijing must let Seoul and Pyongyang know about the cause of the spill and damage it incurred without hiding anything. Only when China shows such good faith can the atmosphere of cooperation among South Korea, Japan, and China be formed.