Japan will acquire the exclusive exploration rights for a 3,000-sq.-km stretch of seabed some 600 km off its easternmost island, Minamitori, to retrieve rare metals including cobalt and nickel, the industry ministry announced Saturday.

The move is aimed at securing a stable supply of rare metals used for high-tech equipment, as Japanese companies are currently reliant on imports mainly from China.

The government's application for the exploration rights, valid for 15 years, was submitted last year and approved by the International Seabed Authority at a meeting in Jamaica on Friday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

"While we will face many challenges, we will assess the resources content in detail and examine the possibility of developing them," METI chief Toshimitsu Motegi said.

The government plans to complete the procedures for the acquisition by the end of the current fiscal year through next March.

Minamitori, an isolated coral atoll, is located around 1,800 km southeast of Tokyo but is under the jurisdiction of the capital.