TOKYO (YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party will likely submit a Bill to parliament in autumn to designate about 10 inhabited remote islands near the country's borders as "special border remote islands" on which military facilities will be built.
The Bill is aimed at countering China's maritime expansion and land acquisition on remote islands by South Korea.
The Bill will call on the government to construct Self-Defence Force (SDF) facilities on the islands and provide more financial support for the islands' development, according to sources.
Candidate islands under the Bill include the Oki Islands in Shimane prefecture, Tsushima Island in Nagasaki prefecture, and Yonagunijima island in Okinawa prefecture. Okushiri Island, Rebun Island and Rishiri Island in Hokkaido are also on the list.
On Tsushima Island, increasing acquisition of land by South Korean capital has become problematic, while the Oki Islands are close to the Takeshima islands that have been occupied by South Korea, a move Japan sees as illegal. Yonagunijima island is about 150km south of the Senkaku Islands, the subject of acrimonious rival claims by Japan and China. The bill will not cover the Senkaku islands, called Diaoyu by China, because they are uninhabited.
As a measure to promote remote islands, the government has been increasing its share of costs for infrastructure construction, based on the remote island promotion and development law and the special measures concerning promotion and development law of Okinawa.
However, many remote islands suffer disparities with the mainland in terms of industrial base and living environment, leading to a decrease in their populations. This has made it more difficult to protect and manage these islands over the years.
In waters around some islands, illegal fishing by foreign fishing boats occurs frequently, while foreign capital is used increasingly to purchase land on remote islands. Such conditions have raised security concerns.
With this situation in mind, the Bill will designate by a government ordinance islands that are important for national security and maintaining the order of the sea as special border remote islands. It also encourages the central government to take such measures as establishing state institutions such as SDF or Japan Coast Guard facilities, purchasing land that should be properly managed by the government such as plots around SDF facilities, and constructing ports and airfields that can be used by SDF units.
The bill also includes measures such as raising the government's share of costs for constructing ports, roads and other infrastructure, and providing support for fishermen who suffer damage from illegal acts by foreign vessels.
The bill will be temporary legislation with a 10-year lifespan in order to secure the necessary budget. The LDP's Special Mission Committee on Territories has been discussing the issue.
Japan had 6,847 remote islands as of April 2013, of which more than 90 per cent are uninhabited.