An undersea volcanic eruption has given Japan a tiny patch of new territory—but the country is going to wait and see whether the sea swallows it before it names the new island. The island was born in a huge eruption of exploding rocks and smoke that reached one-third of a mile into the air. It currently measures around 660 feet in diameter and sits just off the coast of Nishinoshima, an uninhabited island 620 miles south of Tokyo, the AP reports. The Bangkok Post reports that the Japanese navy first spotted smoke yesterday morning, with Volcano Discovery reporting that the navy identified "surtseyan activity" there; that's the "explosive interaction of sea-water and lava, generating violent jets of steam and ash."
The coast guard then verified the presence of the volcano island and issued a more measured warning to ships: "Smoke is still rising from the volcanic island, and we issued a navigation warning to say that this island has emerged with ash falling in the area." It is the first known volcanic activity in the area, part of the Pacific's "Ring of Fire," in around 40 years. "This has happened before and in some cases the islands disappeared," a government spokesman says, though if it doesn't, Japan has plans for the bit of land, reports Kyodo News: "If it becomes an island, our country's territorial waters will expand," he noted, which the Post says was directed at the country's battles with China and South Korea over another set of islands far from this one. (In Pakistan, a new island appeared after an earthquake two months ago, but it is already beginning to sink.)