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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Japan Gains A New Island

How strange… in an era when both China and Russia are squabbling with Japan (that's not the strange part - they have been doing that for a long time) about a few islands that no one seems to care about but everybody in a military uniform seems to want… that Japan should actually gain a new island without having to invade or politically nag anyone to death.

A volcanic eruption way down south of Tokyo - probably in a part of the Japanese territory that fewer than 100 people have ever physically seen - a volcano has thrown up enough matter to form an island… a small one… but… an important one, nonetheless, as it's going to be used to tick off China.

How can a volcanic eruption some 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo be used politically to stick to make an ash out of China?

How? The damn island is only 200 meters in diameter?

And why do myself and a few loyal readers know about this part of Japan?

Situated just off the coast of Nishinoshima, a small, uninhabited island in the Ogasawara chain, which is also known as the Bonin Islands.

Back on September 4, 2013, I wrote about the Bonin Grossbeak, a bird. You can read about that extinct bird HERE.

The Bonin Islands consist of about 30 islands, and are indeed 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo in that seismic hot spot known as the 'Ring of Fire.'

The area is ensconced in thick black smoke, but reports show ash and rock exploding from the volcano's crater, with hot steam shooting up into the sky.  

While there is s still a chance that the new island might not have the proper density and could erode away back into the ocean, it could also become a permanent island.

Which is music to Japan's ears.

“This has happened before and in some cases the islands disappeared,” Yoshihide Suga said when asked if the government was planning on naming the new island.

“If it becomes a full-fledged island, we would be happy to have more territory.”

The Japanese archipelago has thousands of islands. In some cases, they help anchor claims to wide expanses of ocean overlying potentially lucrative energy and mineral resources.

For example... Japan has plans to build port facilities and transplant fast-growing coral fragments onto Okinotorishima, two rocky outcroppings even further south of Tokyo, to boost its claim in a territorial dispute with China.

Okay... so while this NEW isle won't extend Japan's territorial claims... others farther away will...  

How does that work? Well… if you own land with an ocean-front view… you get to claim a fair bit of water in front of that land as yours… meaning you've just extended the area of you country… meaning you get to keep your enemies a little bit further away from your international borders.

According to at the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (actually, it's good reading… it's certainly not dry!) (I wrote an essay on it back in university, but only got a C.), the territorial waters is a belt of coastal waters that extends (at the most) 22.2 kilometers (13.8 miles) from the baseline (in this case defined as the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state….

But… here's the thing… and it's why Chinese and Russian jets often flaunt Japan's airspace with impunity… this territorial sea area is part of the sovereign state - in this case, Japan… BUT foreign ships - military or civilian - are allowed innocent passage through it, and above it via aircraft and below it via swimming or accidental submarine-ing.

It's because of this 'innocent passage' law of the sea that Japan is keen to set up port facilities… to make it easier to "discourage" any "accidental' incursions into its sovereign space… China… we're looking at yo-oooou.

For the record, innocent passage is defined as such: Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.

Anyhow… despite being within the ring of fire, no volcano in this are has erupted since the mid-1970s… and even then… most of the volcanic activity occurs under the sea, which extends thousands of meters deep along the Izu-Ogasawara-Marianas Trench.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I never wrote an essay on the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea... and if I had I would have at least got a C+... something above cee level.

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