Japan Grows an Island to Check China’s Territorial Ambitions 

Robin Harding reports: China’s artificial islands are fuelling a new struggle for control of Asia’s oceans, but while the regional superpower dredges military bases out of the ocean, Japan is growing an island in a bathtub.

The island is called Okinotorishima, or “distant bird island”; a remote, storm-wracked coral atoll in the Philippine Sea, where two small outcrops protrude at high tide. Japan regards the atoll as its southernmost point; China says it is no island, merely a rock.

“Our experiments with planting coral on Okinotorishima are ongoing. We’ve made progress in expanding the area of coral planted, but the death rate of the transplanted coral is high, so we can’t yet say the amount of coral on the island is increasing.”

— Makoto Omori, emeritus professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

For millennia, as the land beneath it sunk, layers of coral grew on top and kept the atoll’s head above water. But now Okinotorishima is dying. Climate change is raising the sea level and killing the coral. Typhoons bite at what remains.

“The ecotechnology established in Okinotorishima can be applied to all the small atoll islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. We have almost 500 atolls in the world, and some island countries such as the Marshalls, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Maldives are completely formed of atolls.”

— Hajime Kayanne, a professor at the University of Tokyo.

Japan is therefore on a desperate quest to regrow the reef. The results will decide the fate of a strategic redoubt, with legal repercussions in the South China Sea, and could offer hope to other atolls threatened by climate change.

The bathtub, full of baby coral growing on iron plates, sits in a greenhouse at the Deep Seawater Research Institute on the island of Kumejima. Workers explain how they brought coral from Okinotorishima and harvested eggs. They will grow the baby corals in this laboratory for a year then transplant them back to the atoll.

South China Sea map

For the scientists working on the project it is a battle with the ocean. They have successfully cultivated coral from the reef and transplanted it back to the island, but it is not enough. “The next technology . . . is keeping up with the rising sea by coral growth and accumulation of coral gravels and sand,” says Hajime Kayanne, a professor at the University of Tokyo.

[Read the full text here, at FT.com]

“Our experiments with planting coral on Okinotorishima are ongoing,” says Makoto Omori, emeritus professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. “We’ve made progress in expanding the area of coral planted, but the death rate of the transplanted coral is high, so we can’t yet say the amount of coral on the island is increasing.”

No amount of transplantation can revive a reef by itself, says Mr Omori. Rather, the goal is for the transplants to spread across the atoll. Working in such a remote place is challenging because it is hard to monitor the coral.

For the scientists, rescuing Okinotorishima means saving the world’s coral, and the many islands that exist because of it. In the past four decades, 40 per cent of the world’s reefs have died.

“The ecotechnology established in Okinotorishima can be applied to all the small atoll islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean,” says Mr Kayanne. “We have almost 500 atolls in the world, and some island countries such as the Marshalls, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Maldives are completely formed of atolls.”

Japan’s generous funding has baser motives, however — the tiny reef looms large in the minds of military planners. Strategists talk of the two island chains separating China from the Pacific: the first running through the main Japanese islands, to Okinawa and Taiwan; the second through Japan’s Ogasawara Islands to the Marianas and the US submarine base at Guam….(read more)

Source: FT.com


2 Comments on “Japan Grows an Island to Check China’s Territorial Ambitions ”

  1. […] Source: Japan Grows an Island to Check China’s Territorial Ambitions  […]

  2. artiewhitefox says:

    People think us an them but that is an illusion. All of us are from Adam and Eve. How can there be different race?


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