The government on Friday set a basic plan governing its maintenance of 148 inhabited offshore islands, with an eye to China’s expansionary activities at sea.
“As a maritime country, we must take long-term, systematic measures to protect, maintain and expand peace, security and our maritime interests,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of the maritime policy task force that approved the plan.
“The situation surrounding our seas is increasing in severity,” he said.
China has overlapping territorial claims with Japan in the East China Sea and has been developing offshore reefs in the South China Sea to the alarm of not only the Association of Southeast Asian Nations members, but China’s neighbors as well.
The plan, based on a law on the protection of the islands that took force last week, contains provisions to acquire land on the islands to house administrative or port facilities. It concerns territory like Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture and the Oki Islands off Shimane. The task force will work on a new maritime plan concerning security and the use of resources, aiming for Cabinet approval next spring.
The government also said on Friday that it had registered 273 uninhabited islands as national property to clarify Japan’s claims to its territorial waters. The acquired islands dictate the boundaries of its territorial waters and the surrounding exclusive economic zones within which Japan can claim fishing rights and other marine resources.
But these do not include two disputed island groups effectively out of Japan’s control — four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido and the Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan, which are controlled by South Korea and called Dokdo.
Japan administers the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which China and Taiwan claim and call Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively. The government purchased most of them from a private owner in 2012 in a bidding war with nationalist former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara.