Friday, June 19, 2020

Japan wants to grow

Much is made of China's artificial islands constructed to lay claim to mineral-rich sea but less is said about other nations' attempts to make use of so-called islands to extend their sovereignty.

 Okinotorishima is an atoll that is 1,740 kilometers (1,081 miles) south of Tokyo that has been reinforced with breakwaters to protect a patch of concrete that measures less than 10 square meters and is just 16 centimeters above the high tide level. This patch of concrete, however, permits Japan to claim an exclusive economic zone covering 400,000 square kilometers of the surrounding waters, which are rich in maritime resources. Surveys have indicated that deposits of valuable natural resources also lie just beneath the seabed.

The UN convention that covers legal issues at sea says that "rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life on their own shall have no exclusive economic zone." China, South Korea and Taiwan all insist that Okinotorishima is just a rock that Japan cannot use to extend its EEZ. The Japanese government is also concerned at Chinese encroachment into Japanese waters, with Tokyo submitting a diplomatic complaint to Beijing in January 2019 after a Chinese government survey vessel was detected operating within Japan’s EEZ around Okinotorishima.  Operated by China’s State Oceanic Administration, the vessel may have been attempting to obtain data on natural resources, including oil and gas.

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