“No rock is an island,” atoll tale from Herbert Smith, a quote that stands out given the significance of Okinotorishima and its status under the international law of the sea.

In 1931, approximately 350 years after mariners of all stripes began passing by (or over, depending on the tide) a coral reef referred to through the ages as Parece Vela (“looks like a sail”) and Douglas Reef; the Japanese navy (seeing a hydroplane base where others had seen a sail, or less) claimed this unassuming atoll for Japan and named it “Okinotorishima.” Keep reading →