TOKYO – The government plans to build a new central database to strengthen the monitoring of remote islands that define Japan’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, sources close to the matter said Monday.
The database will list basic information on remote islands, such as the names and locations, together with image data from satellites and aerial photography and on-site investigations, the sources said.
The Cabinet Office and Japan Coast Guard will take the lead in the plan by compiling information that ministries and agencies possess to share among them, starting by March.
The plan addresses fears that Japan’s territorial waters could shrink if such islands fall under water due to erosion by waves and is designed to help detect changes in the situation to swiftly act against the risk of losing the islands.
According to the Cabinet Office, there are 484 remote islands around Japan’s borders, excluding the South Korean-controlled group of islets in the Sea of Japan known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea and the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. The majority of them are uninhabited.
Last year, authorities received reports that Esambe Hanakita Kojima, an uninhabited island located about 500 meters off the coast of Hokkaido, may have vanished, prompting the Japan Coast Guard to start a probe on the issue.
Chinese vessels have repeatedly navigated in waters around Okinotori Island, a remote atoll which Tokyo claims as a base point for its 200-mile EEZ, with the latest incursion earlier this year. China has argued that Okinotori is just a “rock” and rejects Japan’s claim that it is a base point for the country’s EEZ.
“Many of the remote islands are hard to access, and in order to maintain them it is vital we understand their current state. We need to steadily compile data,” a government official said.