Photo/IllutrationSaudi Arabia is indicated as including Qatar and Kuwait. (Captured from the Defense Ministry's 2018 white paper)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Nearly two-thirds of the maps in the 2018 white paper issued by the Defense Ministry contain mistakes, according to experts, among them the inclusion of neighboring countries within Saudi Arabia.

Hiroshi Tashiro, adviser of the Japan Map Center, and Akio Kondo, associate professor of Aichi University specializing in economic geography, pointed out the mistakes to the ministry.

Kondo said that among 46 maps in the white paper, at least 28 had errors.

For instance, in a map showing the capability range of North Korea's ballistic missiles, the hermetic nation's capital, Pyongyang, is incorrectly located on the Sea of Japan side of the Korean Peninsula, not the Yellow Sea side.

In another example, a map identifying terrorist groups chiefly in Africa and the Middle East shows the national border for Saudi Arabia as including Qatar and Kuwait.

"(The ministry) lacks necessary knowledge about maps, and it needs to be dealt with appropriately," Tashiro said.

In June, multiple errors were discovered in key data used for a report by the Defense Ministry on candidate sites for deploying a U.S.-made Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Japan.

The experts said that some of the diagrams in the latest white paper were also inaccurate.

In a map showing the flight range of Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft deployed by the U.S. military in Okinawa, concentric circles are used, centering on Okinawa's main island. However, according to Tashiro, the ministry should have used an azimuthal equidistant projection map to properly show the distance and direction from the center.

As the Defense Ministry likely used a modified version of a Mercator projection map, the area of activity was not displayed accurately.


Such errors have also been made in past white papers published by the ministry. In the 2017 version, the disputed Takeshima islets in Shimane Prefecture were shown to be farther north, closer to South Korea, than their actual location.

According to the ministry, the area was published in that way for more than 10 years, but has been corrected in the latest version.

When making the white paper, not all maps were checked by ministry departments with expert knowledge, according to the ministry.

"Maps require accuracy, so we have common standards," Kondo said. "The ministry's white paper in particular, because of its nature, needs to be treated carefully.

"If they don't follow the standards, or make compromises, when drawing maps, it could lead to international issues and a loss of trust."

After being informed about the mistakes by the experts, the ministry said: "For next year's white paper, we have already improved procedures in place to receive updated maps every year from ministry departments with expert know-how."