Japan Moves to Upgrade Rocks to Islets

Koto in Japan's Nagasaki Prefecture has decided to change the names of a set of submerged rocks in the East China Sea to mean "small island," according to Kyodo News.

Kita Iwa (north rock) will be changed to Kita Kojima (north small island), Naka Iwa (center rock) to Naka Kojima (center small island), and Minami Iwa (south rock) to Minami Kojima (south small island). This appears to be a bid to upgrade them from sunken rocks to islets with a view to establishing a new base point for the country’s exclusive economic zone.

The rocks are 60 km from Fukue Island and are up to 16 m high with a total surface of 187 sq.m.

Koto City plans to apply for the name changes to the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan by the end of January.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, islands can serve as base points to determine the limits of EEZs, but "rocks which could not sustain human habitation or economic life of their own would have no economic zone." That makes it unlikely that the Japanese plan has much hope of success, but perhaps the move is part of a long stealth game.

In negotiations with Korea over their respective EEZs in 2006, Japan wanted to make the rocks the base point for its EEZ, but Seoul pointed to the UN convention.

Koto says the move aims to offer protection against illegal fishing by foreign trawlers in the area and attempts by other countries to claim them.  

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 05, 2013 14:50 KST