The islets of the northern border may have disappeared
TOKYO >> Two islands bordering Japan that served as reference points to determine the country’s territorial waters may no longer exist.
The two islets, Seppu-Minami-Kojima and Shio-kubi-Misaki-Minami-Kojima, lie in the waters off Hokkaido and were approximately 1,000 square feet each.
But the islets are not visible on satellite photos, a problem that has occurred with other border islands; there are over 480 in Japan.
Seppu-Minami-Kojima, about 720 feet off the coast of Niikappu, a town in southern Hokkaido, may have disappeared due to changes in topography after a powerful earthquake in 2018.
Shiokubi-Misaki-Minami-Kojima, about 330 feet off the coast of Hakodate, is believed to have disappeared during work on a mainland embankment near the islet.
They are part of eight islets that cannot be traced.
The remote border islands serve as benchmarks for determining Japan’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
Last year there were 484 remote border islands across Japan, some of which are inhabited. In 2017, the government had completed all the procedures for nationalizing and naming the islands, the steps towards securing maritime rights and safeguarding the national territory.
Since the existence of the islets cannot be confirmed, the Japanese Coast Guard, Japan Geospatial Information Authority and other agencies are conducting studies.
An islet in the Sea of Okhotsk, off the village of Sarufutsu in Hokkaido, may have crumbled due to erosion from waves and ice.
Five more cannot be found at the locations shown on a GSI map. But the accuracy of the map is in question. The Coast Guard and GSI plan to verify the locations of the border islands using aircraft and other means, to determine if the map needs to be changed.
The government will follow up by creating a border island database to strengthen the surveillance system.