A smoking cone emerged Wednesday from the Pacific during a volcanic eruption, forming a new islet about 1,000 km south of Tokyo in the Ogasawara chain, and the government hopes its arrival will be an avenue to extending Japan’s ocean territory.
The islet was formed as the result of an eruption about 500 meters southeast of uninhabited Nishinoshima in the Ogasawara Islands. The volcanic activity was first observed at around 10:20 a.m. Wednesday.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Thursday that he hopes Japan’s territory will be expanded with the emergence of the new land body, suggesting that the marine resources in the area may come under Japan’s control.
According to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, a coastal water zone of 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) around an island is recognized as the territorial water of the possessing country.
Meanwhile, a portion of the waters extending up to 200 nautical miles (about 370.4 km) around territorial land is recognized as an exclusive economic zone, where the country has the right for exploration and exploitation of maritime resources.
As the new body lies about 500 meters southeast of Nishinoshima, Japan’s EEZ could be slightly expanded with the emergence of the islet, but a Japan Coast Guard official in Tokyo said this won’t be known for a while.
The new body measures about 200 meters in diameter and a maximum elevation of about 20 meters above sea level.
Nishinoshima is about 130 km north of Chichijima, the largest island in the Ogasawara group.
Suga said the government will monitor the situation for now as some islets created as a result of volcanic activity later disappear back beneath the waves.
An island was created by volcanic activity near Nishinoshima in 1973 and was named Nishinoshima-shinto, or New Nishinoshima. It expanded to the point it was bigger than Nishinoshima, but over the years a large part of it has been worn away by erosion.
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