A tiny island in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 miles south of Tokyo is about to get a pricey makeover courtesy of Japan. It's all about allowing Japan to stake its claim to oil, rare metals, and lucrative fishing in the area around Okinotorishima, reports the Guardian. Japan plans to spend $107.5 million to build a deep-water pier, a lighthouse, and a road, and to update a three-story observatory used to monitor nearby ships, reports the South China Morning Post. The project could reignite a maritime territory dispute with China, which has been critical of Japan's claim to sovereignty even while busily building artificial islands elsewhere.
"China's response will be interesting, particularly given what is happening in the South China Sea," says a professor at Tokyo's International Christian University. The UN stipulates that "rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone," a line of attack that China could conceivably take about Okinotorishima. Beijing, however, often goes with historical arguments rather than legal ones in these disputes, notes the professor.