A growing number of Japanese leaders are pushing to build their own island to replace the nation’s already sparse and sparsely populated territory.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to announce the plan Thursday, while the U.S. president, Donald Trump, will also unveil the plan, which has been widely discussed by Japanese leaders.
Japan is home to more than 80 islands, but the size of the islands themselves is limited.
In Japan, islands are often built as a response to the Japanese government’s desire to preserve a fragile territorial environment.
The island-building program is different, however, because it would be able to accommodate larger islands and would allow Japan to build islands that could be expanded to cover more of the country.
Abe and Trump have previously indicated that they are in favor of the plan.
Abe’s spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said in a statement Thursday that he had instructed Abe to consider the issue.
“He is looking forward to discussing this issue in a meeting with U.K. Prime Ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson,” Suga said.
The Japanese government has long been interested in expanding its territory, which currently spans nearly 2,000 square miles.
In 2020, Japan had more than half a million people, according to the government.
In 2019, Japan reported a population of 1.2 billion, according the government’s statistics.
Abe has made the issue of building islands a priority during his four years in office.
“As an island nation, we must ensure that the island-based islands are a good resource for the Japanese people, as well as the world community,” Abe said in May during a visit to Japan.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be left behind.”
The U.N. Human Rights Council is also weighing the issue, and is expected in mid-December to endorse a draft resolution on the issue that would recommend the creation of a “super island” in the Pacific Ocean, in a bid to help Japan’s territorial waters.
The resolution, though, is likely to face strong opposition from Japan’s archipelago, which claims the entire archipelageway, which is claimed by China and other nations.
The U,S., China and several other countries have made territorial claims over the islands, which are located atolls that lie about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Okinawa, Japan’s biggest island.
In a move that prompted outrage in Japan, the United States in 2015 agreed to pay $2.3 billion to settle lawsuits over the issue and has since agreed to settle more than 1,400 cases.