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Japan: New Law on Preservation of Remote Island Areas

(June 20, 2016) The Act on Preservation of Areas of Remote, Inhabited Islands Establishing Territorial Seas and Maintenance of Local Societies on Areas of Specified Remote, Inhabited Islands Establishing Territorial Seas (Act on Preserving Remote Island Areas) was promulgated by Japan on April 27, 2016. (Act No. 33 of 2016, KANPOU [OFFICIAL GAZETTE].)  It will be effective for ten years, from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2027.  (Id. Supp. art. 1.)  The locations of the major remote islands are marked on an interactive map provided by a private website, at http://ritoumap.com. The Act is one of the measures being taken to boost remote local areas whose population is declining in most areas and is also part of the general measures to enhance Japan’s security (border protection) and secure its borders (sea lines).

The Act aims to preserve Japan’s territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by enhancing the capacity of inhabited remote islands that are on or close to the border of the territorial seas and the EEZ. (Id. art. 1.)

The term “areas of remote, inhabited islands establishing territorial seas” includes:

  • a remote, inhabited island that is a basis for the drawing of the border of the territorial sea and the EEZ and its surrounding area; or
  • a remote, inhabited island that is a part of a /group of remote islands that includes an island that is a basis for the drawing such borders and its surrounding area.  (Id. art. 2, ¶ 1.)

The term “an area of a specified, remote, inhabited island establishing territorial seas” refers to specified islands among the general group of islands described in the previous article and their surrounding area that especially needs support to maintain human habitation.  (Id. art. 2, ¶ 2.)

The Cabinet must establish a basic plan to preserve areas of these particular remote, inhabited islands and to maintain local societies in areas of specified remote, inhabited islands establishing territorial seas.  (Id. art. 4.)  The basic plan includes establishment of facilities of national government agencies, upgrading of ports, prevention of illegal entry by foreign vessels, creation of jobs, and support for fisheries.  (Id.)  Prefectural governments must establish more detailed local plans, following this basic plan.  (Id. art. 10.)  For the areas of specified remote, inhabited islands establishing territorial seas, the national and prefectural governments must endeavor to lower the prices of air and sea travel between such areas and other parts of Japan.  (Id. arts 12 & 13.)