Japan: Tight Little Islands

Tight Little Islands

At high tide they sit barely 2 ft. above the Pacific -- when the ocean is calm -- and are no larger than a pair of king-size beds. Yet the two coral promontories, known as Okinotorishima (Offshore Bird Islands), 1,300 miles southwest of Tokyo, are the southernmost points of Japanese sovereignty. Under international law, they provide the country with an exclusive, fish-rich | economic zone of 163,000 sq. mi., an area larger than Japan itself -- as long as they remain above water.

The islands, which once covered several square miles, are eroding at an alarming rate. To keep them from...

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