30 November 2023

Japan announces new maritime policy to strengthen maritime security in response to threats from China, Russia and North Korea

File photo: Soldiers of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force salute Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.  (November 6, 2022)
File photo: Soldiers of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force salute Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (November 6, 2022)


The Japanese government cabinet on Friday (April 28) approved a maritime policy covering the next five years, emphasizing the need to strengthen maritime security, including enhancing the capabilities of the Coast Guard and strengthening cooperation with the Maritime Self-Defense Force in order to better deal with China’s invasion of Japan. Japan’s surrounding waters are becoming more and more powerful.

The new document, known as the Basic Plan for Ocean Policy, also said Japan must speed up the development of autonomous underwater drones and remotely controlled robots to strengthen Japan’s surveillance capabilities.

The document cites a number of reasons why Japan must do so, including repeated intrusions by Chinese coast guard ships into Japanese territorial waters, the increasing presence of “foreign survey ships” in Japan’s exclusive economic zone without permission, and growing tensions between China and Russia. numerous joint military exercises, and repeated missile tests by North Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a policy meeting on Friday, with Koichi Tani, left, the head of Japan's National Public Security Commissioner sitting next to him.  (April 28, 2023)
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a policy meeting on Friday, with Koichi Tani, left, the head of Japan’s National Public Security Commissioner sitting next to him. (April 28, 2023)

“The situation in the waters around Japan is becoming increasingly tense,” the Associated Press quoted Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as saying at a policy meeting on Friday. “It’s time for us to combine the wisdom of industry, academia and government in ocean policy reform or ocean reform.”

Kishida also spoke about the need to make better use of ocean resources in order to achieve carbon neutrality.

According to the Associated Press, Japan’s new maritime policy complements the new national security strategy launched by the Kishida government in December last year. The Kishida government’s new national security strategy gets rid of the shackles of the principle of self-defense only stipulated in Japan’s postwar peace constitution, allowing the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to have the ability to strike preemptively.

The new national security strategy calls for doubling Japan’s defense budget over the next five years and for the Self-Defense Forces and Coast Guard to cooperate more closely in response to emergencies in the Taiwan Strait or other conflicts.

The new basic plan for maritime policy points out that the strength of the Japanese Coast Guard, which is fighting on the front line in disputes over maritime territorial sovereignty, should be further enhanced. Ships from Japan’s Coast Guard routinely engage in standoffs in the East China Sea near the Senkaku Islands, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, which are controlled by Japan but claimed by China. The Japan Coast Guard also has to deal with North Korean fishing boats and spy boats that overfish and overfish, as well as Russian coast guard ships in waters near the four northern islands.

Japan’s maritime policy plan pointed out that the rise of China has rapidly changed the military balance in the Indo-Pacific region; and the relationship between Tokyo and Moscow has also deteriorated sharply after Russia invaded Ukraine. Japan joined the United States and other major Western countries in imposing comprehensive and severe economic sanctions on Moscow.

The duty of the Japan Coast Guard is to safeguard Japan’s maritime rights and maritime security. The nature of the task is like the maritime police rather than the army. However, the new maritime policy plan calls for strengthening the cooperation and coordination between the Coast Guard and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. But the call has raised concerns about the role and safety of the Coast Guard in times of conflict.

The Associated Press reported that the Japanese government has often protested that Chinese survey ships enter Japan’s territorial waters or adjacent waters of the exclusive economic zone to survey the seabed and other marine resources.

The Japanese government also released guidelines Friday detailing procedures for bringing the Coast Guard under the control of Japan’s defense minister in the event of an armed attack on Japan. This move is also aimed at strengthening the liaison and cooperation between the Coast Guard and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Japan’s defense minister, with the approval of the cabinet, can direct the Japan Coast Guard to engage in logistical support operations during wartime, including the evacuation of residents, so that the Japan Self-Defense Forces can focus on combat operations.

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