Tokyo: Japan will nationalise about 280 of the about 400 remote islands that serve as markers for determining Japan's territorial waters, the state minister for oceanic policy and territorial issues has announced.
Under the plan, announced on Tuesday, the government will complete its search for the islands' owners by June. Islands whose owners have not been tracked down by then will be registered on the national asset ledger.
The move aims to clarify the government's intention to protect territories and territorial waters by designating remote islands as "important national territories," and to reinforce the management of marine resources and national security.
The search for owners was started in August last year by the Headquarters for Ocean Policy, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. About 50 of the islands are inhabited and about 350 uninhabited. Owners of about 70 uninhabited islands have been tracked down. However, it remains unknown whether 280 islands have owners.
The Civil Code stipulates that land with no owner becomes state property.
"Registering [remote islands] as Japan's national assets would send a message that we intend to strengthen management of them," Ichita Yamamoto, the state minister for oceanic policy and territorial issues, said at a press conference. "The government must accurately grasp the state of these remote islands."
The government will check whether about 160 islands without names have only locally known titles before giving them names. The governments might invite the public through local authorities to suggest ideas for names.
About 500 islands serve as the base points for establishing Japan's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. However, information about some of the islands, including their owners, has yet to be confirmed.
Of 99 remote islands that form base points of Japan's EEZ, the government nationalised islands with no apparent owner after investigating their ownership based on a basic policy for conserving and managing remote islands for oceanic management, which the government compiled in 2009.
Territorial waters of a country facing the ocean is established by the country based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and extend up to 12 nautical miles (about 22 kilometers) from the coast.
The low-water line along the coast, where sea and land meet at low tide, becomes the baseline for establishing territorial waters. The convention states, "An island is a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide."