The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines where a country can extract minerals and other natural resources. It states that a continental shelf extends 200 nautical miles, or about 370 kilometers, from a country’s baseline.
But under certain topographical or geological conditions, the UN can approve a wider area.
Japan submitted a claim to expand its 4 million square kilometers of continental shelf in 2008.
The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf approved an expansion of 4 areas, including east of the Ogasawara Islands and north of Okino-torishima, Japan’s southernmost island.
China and South Korea opposed the expansion. They claim Okino-torishima is a coral atoll, not an island.
The seabed surrounding the Ogasawara Islands is believed to be rich in copper and rare metals.The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the expansion of the continental shelf will enhance Japan’s maritime interests.