New continental shelves may be spreading off the Boso Peninsula of Chiba Prefecture and off southern Hokkaido, according to a Japan Coast Guard study released Monday.

Continental shelves are rich in marine life and mineral resources. If the U.N. approves Japan’s claim to the shelves, Japan will be permitted to catch marine products and develop the mineral resources.

Coast guard officials said a study of the shelves will be carried out with related ministries, including the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. Japan must submit the results of the study by 2009 to obtain U.N. approval.

The 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea defines territorial waters as those extending 12 nautical miles beyond a nation’s coast and grants each nation exclusive fishing and mining rights in waters extending 200 nautical miles. The convention also defines rights for new shelves beyond the 200-nautical-mile mark if the sediment has reached a certain thickness.

An earlier coast guard study found six new shelves around the Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific. They span 650,000 sq. km and are likely to obtain U.N. approval.

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