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Sunday, April 29, 2012

U.N. OKs Japan claim to expand shelf

Okinotori inclusion adds 310,000 sq. km to EEZ, boosts seabed access

Kyodo, Jiji

The U.N. commission on seabed claims has adopted a recommendation allowing Japan to vastly extend its claimed continental shelf area far to the east of Okinawa, government officials said Saturday.

News photo
EEZ key: Far-flung Okinotori Island, which Japan claims as its southernmost territory, is seen in April 2005. KYODO

The U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has recognized around 310,000 sq. km of seabed around Okinotori Island as part of Japan's continental shelf — an area equivalent to about 82 percent of Japan's total land area, the officials said.

With the recommendation, Japan would have priority over access to seabed resources in areas near Okinotori, a tiny, mostly submerged atoll 1,700 km south of Tokyo that Japan claims is the southernmost point of its territory.

While the traditional limit for claiming an exclusive economic zone is 200 nautical miles, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea allows a coastal state to claim control of the underlying seabed beyond that limit if it can prove the ocean floor is connected to its continental shelf.

But China and South Korea have opposed Japan's attempt to claim the areas because they view the barely visible pair of outcroppings, which have since been heavily reinforced and enlarged with concrete, not as an island, but a group of rocks, thus making them invalid as a reference point for Japan's EEZ.

Japan submitted its request to extend the claim to the U.N. commission in November 2008. Seven maritime areas to the south and southeast off Japan's main islands were included in the request, which altogether accounted for an area equivalent to about 740,000 sq. km.

The Foreign Ministry has been informed of the U.N. panel's decision on the extension, which includes about 170,000 sq. km in the Shikoku basin, the officials said.

News photo
Speck in the ocean: Higashikojima, part of tiny Okinotori Island, has been reinforced by concrete blocks to prevent it from being eroded by constant submersion. KYODO

The panel put off a decision on an area south of Okinotori Island, part of the southern Kyushu-Palau ridge, which is around 250,000 sq. km, and rejected the rest of Japan's claims, the officials said.

After closely examining the recommendation, the government plans to consult with the United States, whose future applications may include marine areas that overlap with the enlarged ones claimed by Japan. The government will then issue an ordinance to set the limit on Japan's continental shelf, according to sources.

Deepsea drilling record


A Japanese research ship has broken the world depth record for deep-sea drilling attempts at 7,740 meters below the ocean's surface.

The Chikyu set the record during a research drilling project launched earlier this month off the Oshika Peninsula in Miyagi Prefecture to determine how the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology said Friday.

The Chikyu, which means Earth, drilled 856.5 meters below the seafloor for a total depth of 6,883.5 meters to reach the fault zone at a site just west of the Japan Trench axis, the operator said.

The previous total depth record for deep-sea drilling was 7,049.5 meters set by a U.S. research vessel in the Mariana Trench in 1978. It drilled only 15.5 meters below the seafloor but at an ocean depth of 7,034 meters, the agency said.

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The Japan Times

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