KUMEJIMA (Okinawa) • Japan is growing an island in a bathtub as part of a struggle with China for control of Asia’s oceans, reported the Financial Times.
The island is called Okinotorishima, or “distant bird island”; a remote, storm-wracked coral atoll 1,700km south-west of Tokyo in the Philippine Sea, where two small outcrops protrude at high tide, FT said.
Japan regards the atoll as its southernmost point; China says it is merely a rock and hence not entitled to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Now Okinotorishima is dying and threatening Japan’s claim. Climate change is raising the sea level and killing the coral that grew on top and kept the atoll’s head above water. Typhoons bite at what remains.
Japan is therefore on a desperate quest to regrow the reef, FT said in a report last weekend. The results will decide the fate of a strategic redoubt, with legal repercussions in the South China Sea, it said.
Japanese authorities have brought coral from Okinotorishima to the Deep Seawater Research Institute on the island of Kumejima and harvested eggs.
They will grow the baby corals in a bathtub in a greenhouse at the facility for a year, then transplant them back to the atoll.