China Asserts Sovereignty Over Shipwrecks

Beijing lays claim to 2,000 years of sunken history

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Philippine Navy / AFP / Getty Images

An undated photo taken by the Philippine navy and released on April 11, 2012, by the Department of Foreign Affairs shows Chinese surveillance ships off Scarborough Shoal

From ancient junk boats to torpedoed warships, China has declared 2,000 years of sunken history in the South China Sea as property of the state.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Beijing has chased marine archaeologists out of the disputed waters, where it has staked out increasingly assertive claims over areas claimed by five neighboring states. As many as 2,000 shipwrecks may lay on the seabed that China claims as sovereign territory.

Chinese officials say they want to stop looters from plundering their ancient heritage. Skeptics tell the Journal that China really wants to signal to its neighbors just whose heritage is being plundered.