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Japan plans to spend $100M on uninhabited island

China has never claimed Okinotorishima, but Japan’s decision is not likely to be warmly received in Beijing.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   Feb. 3, 2016 at 11:36 AM
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TOKYO, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Japan is adding to the escalating island reclamation storm in the western Pacific with an expensive renovation project.

Tokyo has announced that it plans to spend more than $100 million to rebuild on 100-square-foot Okinotorishima island, located about 1,000 miles south of Tokyo in the Philippine Sea, The South China Morning Post reported.

The island is uninhabitable and mainly consists of coral reefs and man-made barriers to keep water out.

But the project is a strategic move for Japan.

The atoll adds another 200 nautical miles to Japan's exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, and Tokyo's plan comes at a time when the country has repeatedly denounced China's land reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

China has never claimed Okinotorishima, but Japan's decision is not likely to be warmly received in Beijing, The Guardian reported.

The zone is rich in fisheries and is the site of large deposits of oil, rare metals and energy sources.

Japan's plan could also be in violation of United Nations convention on the law of the sea.

A country can only extend its EEZ from an actual island, defined as "a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide."

Okinotorishima mainly consists of coral beds that have been propped up by steel breakwaters and concrete casings to prevent their disappearance.

Japan has budgeted $107.5 million toward the construction of a deep-water pier, a lighthouse and a road spanning the reef.

The island is located at a middle point between Taiwan and Guam, a U.S. territory, and could be a sensitive issue for Beijing even as it continues to build on the disputed Spratly Islands.

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