Japan arguably has more vital connections to the sea than any other major nation. Its complex geography—an archipelago of some 6,850 islands with 126 million citizens—makes it a coastal state with the eighth largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This vast marine space is 12 times larger than the nation’s landmass. Japan signed the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on 7 February 1983 and ratified it on 20 June 1996. UNCLOS remains a critical and stable governance framework essential to Japan’s connections to the sea, national marine policies, and future maritime fortunes.
Japan’s mineral resources are limited; most notably, it lacks crude oil and natural gas. National energy statistics for 2018 indicate Japan remains highly dependent on fossil fuels, with nearly all of its oil imported by sea from the Middle East. Unimpeded use of sea lines of communication and freedom of navigation are critical to its economic survival.