Japan to extend continental shelf

The Japanese government will enact legislation to formally extend the limits of its continental shelf and expand its exclusive rights to marine resources.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that a continental shelf stretches, in principle, 200 nautical miles, or about 370 kilometers, from a country’s coastline.

The convention defines all territory up to this point as the country’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ. In this area the state has the sovereign right to explore and use marine resources, including rare metals and other minerals on the seabed.

Countries can get approval to extend the continental shelf beyond the EEZ under certain topographical or geological conditions.

A UN commission in 2012 partly approved Japan’s application to expand its continental shelf, giving it an extra 310,000 square kilometers in 4 areas in the Pacific Ocean.

The area was about half of what Japan claimed.

Government officials in Tokyo will draw up legislation to demarcate the limits of the extended areas, including east of Ogasawara Islands and north of Okinotorishima, Japan’s southernmost island.

They also plan to consult their counterparts in the United States, which has an EEZ near the areas.

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