The government is considering beefing up its monitoring activities over remote islands that define Japan’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, using images captured by state satellites, government officials said Saturday.
Japan faces fears of its territorial waters shrinking if such islands fall under water due to erosion by waves and other reasons, and the government hopes to detect changes in the situation to swiftly act against the risk of losing them, the officials said.
The government has already received a report that an uninhabited island called Esambe Hanakita Kojima located about 500 meters off the coast of Hokkaido may have vanished. The Japan Coast Guard will start a probe on the issue by next June.
The government earlier considered using commercial satellite images for enhancing the monitoring activities around islands but has given up the idea because it will be costly and will unlikely allow access to massive data.
Instead, the government is leaning toward using images captured by its information-gathering satellites and a land observing satellite operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
The satellite images are expected to provide input to a new Japan Coast Guard system that collects maritime information such as the height of waves and oceanic flow, enabling the Cabinet Office to confirm the latest situation around the islands as needed.
According to the Cabinet Office, there are about 480 remote islands around Japan’s borders, excluding the South Korean-controlled group of islets in the Sea of Japan called Takeshima in Japan and the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido domestically known as the Northern Territories.
“We need to increase the ‘eyes’ to check the situation as territorial waters and exclusive economic zones are issues that directly affect our national interests,” a government official said.