Speaking to China’s state broadcaster CCTV, the nation’s mapping agency vice director Li Pengde said that Beijing plans to send a team at “an appropriate time” to go on to the disputed islands and study their layout. Surveying by land would allow the mapping of caves and other features not visible from the air, according to Li.

If China does go ahead with the touted surveying, tensions between the two North Asian nations will likely further deteriorate. Tokyo’s stance is that the islands are its sovereign territory and it would view any survey activity as an illegal incursion.