Japan Approves New Ocean Policy With a Core Focus on Maritime Secuirty


With the dynamics of change underway in the Pacific, Japan has been changing its defense and security policies to provide for more focus and capability to deal with threats and challenges in the region.

The latest element of the change is the new Japanese ocean policy.

According to an article published May 15, 2018 in The Japan Times, the new policy is discussed.

Japan approved Tuesday a new ocean policy that highlights maritime security, amid perceived growing threats from North Korea and China, in a reversal from the previous version which focused largely on sea resource development.

The ocean program cited threats from North Korea’s launching of ballistic missiles, and operations by Chinese vessels around the Japan-controlled and China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

“Amid an increasingly severe maritime situation, the government will come together to protect our territorial waters and interests at sea,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting of the government panel on ocean policy.

The contents of the third Basic Plan on Ocean Policy are expected to be reflected in the government’s defense buildup guidelines that are set to be revised in December. Since its first adoption in 2008, the ocean policy has been reviewed every five years.

The policy pointed out that the maritime security situation facing the nation is “highly likely to deteriorate, if no measure is taken.”

The government also plans to make use of coastal radar equipment, aircraft and vessels from the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard, as well as high-tech optical satellites of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, to strengthen the nation’s intelligence gathering abilities.

The policy underscores the need for cooperation between the coast guard and the Fisheries Agency to enhance responses to illegal operations by North Korea and fishing vessels from other countries, amid a surge in the number of such cases in the waters surrounding Japan.

To ensure sea lane safety, it also stipulates the government’s promotion of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy advocated by Abe for maintaining and strengthening a free and open order in the region based on the rule of law.

And an article published on May 15, 2018 by Nikkei Financial Review adds further information about the new policy:

The new policy is the latest iteration of the plan, which the government began formulating in 2008. It is reviewed every five years.

 Ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is chairman of the maritime policy coordinating committee, said, “Amid intensifying tensions in ocean circumstances, the government should work as a team to protect our maritime territories and rights, as well as maintain and develop openness and the stability of the oceans.”

 The ocean policy plan details measures to be taken under the government’s leadership. The plan specifically calls for enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness activities, including monitoring suspicious vessels and sharing information with other countries.

Under the plan, the government will develop a platform to allow it to swiftly communicate information with vessels cruising in waters near Japan, and prepare for possible missile launches by North Korea.

The capabilities of vessels, aircraft and radar of the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard will be steadily enhanced. The government plans to beef up monitoring of unidentified vessels by using the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s satellites and by sharing information with U.S. forces and other organizations. It will also build a system to consolidate maritime information gathered by the SDF and the coast guard.

The plan also stipulates emergency security systems near the Senkaku Islands, Okinawa Prefecture, as part of its efforts to protect remote islands. The plan includes policies concerning the Arctic for the first time to make it easier for Japanese companies to utilize the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic Ocean north of Russia.

In accordance with the plan, the government will formulate specific actions to strengthen Maritime Domain Awareness.

The featured photo shows Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking at a meeting on the nation’s ocean policy at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday. | KYODO