Taken from Yomiuri Onine
The government decided Friday to apply to the United Nations for a huge expansion of seabed areas around the country to be designated as Japan’s continental shelves.
If approved by the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Japan’s seabed resources development claims would grow by about 740,000 square kilometers, nearly double the country’s entire land area.
The seabed around the Japanese archipelago contains a bounty of methane hydrate, which could be used as an alternative to petroleum, and various mineral resources in hydrothermal deposits. If the planned enlargement of the claim on developing seabed resources is approved, Japan could tap this vast wealth as part of the nation’s natural resources development rights.
The decision was made at a meeting of the Headquarters for Ocean Policy, the decision-making body of the government’s maritime resources utilization strategy, which is headed by Prime Minister Taro Aso.
The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that a coastal state can claim developmental rights to seabed resources as long as they lie on the continental shelf belonging to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that stretches 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers) from the country’s shores.
The 1982 convention also says a coastal country can have its continental shelf claim extended beyond the EEZ by a maximum of 350 nautical miles, provided it can prove with scientific data the geographical and geological continuity of the seabed with the state’s established EEZ.
The government has been investigating seabeds around the country since 2004 in an effort to assess the potential of expanding the country’s continental shelf claim.
Experts on the studies say there is a good chance of U.N. approval for the country’s application for expansion in such waters around Minami-Torishima, an islet at the county’s eastern extremity, and Okino-Torishima, Japan’s southernmost island.
The deadline for presenting applications to the U.N. panel is at the end of May. Twelve countries, including Russia and Brazil, have already finished their applications for larger continental shelf claims.