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Gov’t surveying private land on islands near national border to prevent illegal occupation

  • September 27, 2018
  • , Asahi , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

The government has begun to survey privately-owned land on remote islands near the national border in its effort to safeguard Japan’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) since these islands constitute the base line for determining territorial waters and the EEZ. With the intensification of maritime activities by the neighboring countries, the government wants to have a firm grasp of how land is being used on the islands in order to tighten control to prevent illegal occupation.


Japan is a maritime state that has the sixth largest EEZ in the world, including its territorial waters. It has 525 islands near the national border, 465 of which are uninhabited. In light of the Chinese government ships’ intrusion into territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands, the government has moved ahead with the nationalization of most uninhabited islands with unknown owners. On the other hand, there is no accurate information on the owners of private land and how land is being utilized on 39 of the 60 inhabited islands.


In light of this situation, the government has set the goal of “comprehensive maritime security” in the Third Basic Plan for Ocean Policy approved by the cabinet last May, adopting a policy focused on the preservation and control of border islands. As a result, the Cabinet Office is now conducting surveys on private land on these islands.


The lot numbers of private land need to be confirmed first for the purpose of registration. However, this has proven to be a challenging task because these islands are almost never visited by any person. There are also cases in which ownership is complicated.


The survey process has been a tedious one. A Cabinet Office official says he has been “going back and forth to the islands for two months.” While he has been able to collect all the registration certificates for the uninhabited islands, he is having a hard time regarding the inhabited ones.


The problem is the sharing of information. The local governments or the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) responsible for patrolling the territorial waters sometimes possess information on the preservation and use of private land, and there are cases where the government’s satellite photos prove to be useful. However, this Cabinet Office official laments that “information is not being shared because it is being kept for different purposes.” Using satellite images provided by private companies costs around 500,000 yen per item.


To deal with this situation, the government has decided to introduce a system for a unified database for information possessed by the Defense Ministry, the JCG, the Japan Meteorological Agency, other relevant ministries, local governments, and private entities. It will monitor whether there has been any regression of the coastline or illegal use by foreigners, in order to be able to take swift measures to preserve the land if necessary.

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