Japan to raise profile of outlying islands

Tokyo to nationalise 148 border islands and boost their population amid territorial rows

TOKYO • Japan's government will designate 148 outlying islands close to its borders as "inhabited outlying border islands" and seek to nationalise them and boost their population, amid ongoing territorial spats with China and South Korea.

The 148 islands in 29 regions include the Ogasawara Islands in Tokyo, Tsushima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture and the Yaeyama Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, according to the outline of basic guidelines being devised by the government's Headquarters for Ocean Policy, reported the Yomiuri Shimbun yesterday.

The guidelines include measures to increase the number of inhabitants, nationalising the islands and improving port facilities, the report said.

The plan is expected to be formally approved at a meeting led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next month, sources told the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The government intends to establish in fiscal 2017 five billion yen (S$62 million) to fund the measures, the report said.

  • 148

    Number of outlying islands the Japanese government wants to redesignate.

    $62m

    What the Japanese government intends to commit to fund the measures to encourage citizens to live on the outlying isles.

Japan is embroiled in several intractable rows over maritime territory with neighbours China and South Korea. China and Japan have repeatedly clashed over ownership of the uninhabited Sen- kaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

Both sides regularly send ships to nearby waters to assert their claims.

Japan and South Korea dispute each other's claims to small islands - called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan - in the Sea of Japan, known as the East Sea in South Korea.

South Koreans also argue that Japan's Tsushima islands, located just 50km off the south-eastern tip of the Korean peninsula and home to 40,500 people, were once controlled by their country.

The guidelines being drawn up by the administration of Japan's nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasise the importance of measures to promote inhabited outlying border islands as a matter of national security.

Such measures, the plan says, are "extremely important for the preservation of the nation's territorial waters and others", reported the Yomiuri.

They include the establishment of facilities for the government's administrative organs, government land purchases, port facility improvements and the prevention of illegal activity by foreign vessels.

Of the inhabited outlying border islands, 71 islands in 15 regions for which support measures are considered particularly necessary will be categorised as "specially designated inhabited outlying border islands", the report said.

Tsushima Island and Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture are among these islands.

The guidelines also set a target of steadily increasing the number of inhabitants on these islands through measures that reduce of costs of living. Lowering ship or air fares for residents and reducing the costs for materials necessary for their daily lives and business operations were some of the measures drawn up.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2017, with the headline 'Japan to raise profile of outlying islands'. Print Edition | Subscribe