沖ノ鳥島EEZ 海洋権益の保護強化に努めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Take all possible steps to protect marine resources of Japan’s EEZ
沖ノ鳥島EEZ 海洋権益の保護強化に努めよ

Japan, as a maritime nation, faces the crucial challenge of how effectively to protect its interests in its vast exclusive economic zone. The government must make all-out efforts to come up with concrete steps to protect the zone.

Taiwan authorities have protested the seizure in late April of a Taiwan fishing boat by the Japan Coast Guard in the Japanese EEZ around Okinotorishima, the southernmost islands of Japan, and have sent three vessels, including patrol ships, to the area near the islets, which are part of the village of Ogasawara, Tokyo. The vessels are likely to remain inside the EEZ, for the time being, under the pretext of protecting Taiwan’s fishing boats.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida protested the dispatch of patrol ships, saying, “It’s extremely regrettable that Taiwan sent patrol ships into the Japanese EEZ despite our request that they remain outside.” It was quite natural for Kishida to call on Taipei to have the ships leave the EEZ.

Japan’s combined area of territorial waters and EEZ is the sixth largest in the world. Okinotorishima has an EEZ of about 400,000 square meters, which is slightly larger than Japan’s land area, and is blessed with abundant fishery and seabed resources. These are very important marine interests.

Japan takes this stand: “Okinotorishima has been recognized as isles under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Thus, an EEZ exists around them.” Japan has contended that two of the Okinotorishima islets remain above sea level even at high tide and therefore are not “rocks” around which an EEZ cannot be set.

Sudden change of stance

In the wake of the JCG’s seizure of the Taiwan fishing boat, the Taiwan administration of President Ma Ying-jeou suddenly began to claim that the Okinotorishima islets are nothing but “rocks.” We cannot accept this one-sided view.

Since around 2004, China has asserted that the Okinotorishima islets are “rocks.” So has South Korea. Taiwan, on the other hand, had not clarified its position on the matter.

Taiwan's abrupt move to change its position ahead of a change of administration on May 20 is questionable. We suspect that Ma is seeking to maintain his influence after leaving office by inciting Taiwan’s public opinion on the matter.

Japan must try to resolve the issue by holding talks with Taiwan’s incoming administration led by Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, which attaches importance to relations with Tokyo.

From the viewpoint of China, the Okinotorishima islets are located at a median point between what it calls the first island chain ranging from Japan’s Nansei Islands to the Philippines and the second island chain extending from the Ogasawara Islands to Guam. The Chinese Navy is trying in full scale to expand its maritime activities into the western Pacific. This has elevated Okinotorishima’s geopolitical value.

The Japanese government has installed concrete revetments for Okinotorishima to prevent erosion from ocean waves and storms. It should increase its efforts, such as building port facilities, to further safeguard the islets.

This will lead to the effective administration of Okinotorishima’s EEZ and serve as a check on China’s expansionist maritime advances.

Taking advantage of the characteristics of remote islets, Okinotorishima should be used as bases for weather observation, marine research and other purposes. This would help buttress their legal status. Government ministries and agencies concerned must join hands and work out measures from a strategic standpoint.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 13, 2016)

by kiyoshimat | 2016-05-14 08:59 | 英字新聞

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