The 9th IISS Asia Security Summit (The Shangri-La Dialogue)
Statement by H.E. Mr. Toshimi KITAZAWA
Minister of Defense of Japan
“Japan’s Policies Regarding the Ocean as a Global Commons”
(Saturday, 5 June 2010; Singapore)

[1. Opening Greetings]

Director-General Chipman,
Respected Guests,

I am extremely honored to be given this opportunity to make a statement at the Shangri-La Dialogue, which has significance as the largest venue for multilateral exchange at the defense minister-level in the Asia-Pacific region. I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Government of Singapore.

The theme of today’s second plenary session is “New Dimensions of Security.”

I believe that such new concerns that could affect our security include climate change, cyber space, and outer space. Let us take climate change as an example. Along with direct effects on security due to global warming, climate change also aggravates and amplifies conventional instability concerns by increasing large-scale natural disasters, which leads to significant population displacement

The sea allows us to freely propagate goods, ideas and services, and among all the indispensable international assets for globalization, the sea is of the utmost importance.

I would like to take up considering the ocean as a global commons as a topic of this session’s focus because the ocean, enveloping the country on all four sides, is a basic element of Japan’s surroundings.

[2. With Regard to the Ocean
(1) Japan’s connections to the sea]

To start off, I will speak on Japan’s relationship with the ocean.

I believe that the ocean has played three important roles for Japan, an island nation surrounded on all four sides by the seas. One role would be that of a “blessing,” having been the site of natural resources since long ago. Another role is that of a “road,” having conveyed to Japan everything from agricultural technology and rice farming to Buddhism and knowledge about advanced cultures from far-away continents. Lastly, the ocean has acted as a natural “defense barricade,” protecting Japan from invasion by foreign forces.

At this point in my presentation, I would like to recite a waka, a classic Japanese poem.

“Ima Kawaru Nii Sakimori ga Funade suru Unabara no ue ni Namina Sakisone”

This is a waka composed approximately 1300 years ago by Ootomo no Yakamochi. The poem is about soldiers protecting their country, saying “These troops going out to sea are new troops replacing those who are returning home. I beg you, ocean, that you will send them out on quiet, peaceful waves.” I think it depicts the close connection between Japan’s security and the ocean since long ago.

[(2) Discussions revolving around the ocean]

How to handle the ocean has been discussed in the international community, and efforts have been made to create norms. The ancient Romans used to call the Mediterranean Sea “Our Sea.”, and in Europe, the notion that those who control the sea would dominate the world was conceived ever since the Great Age of Exploration. At any rate, the idea that is based on the understanding that controlling the sea is important in conducting political and economic activity has long been held.

These days, however, as the number of nation states has increased, seabed resources and other marine resources have been found increasingly valuable in supporting economic development.

With the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea taking effect in 1994, the high seas, that is, maritime areas that do not belong to anyone, greatly decreased, and territorial waters of littoral states and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) jurisdictions make up 40% of the worlds’ oceans. When state sovereignty over a maritime area is recognized, or an area where states rights are recognized to a certain extent increase, the state can exercise such rights to these areas. At the same time, the states responsibilities to the waters in which they have jurisdiction also increase.

[(3) The ocean as a global commons]

As such, while the ocean is recognized as an area which countries have jurisdiction over, it is increasingly gaining the characteristics of a global commons as interdependence and globalization progress, much like cyber space and outer space. No single power alone can secure maritime safety and therefore, maritime security requires diverse collaboration among not only nation states but also international organizations.

[3. Recent Problems Concerning the Seas and Various Efforts to Resolve them and their Trends]

Maritime security is vital for all users to safely and stably benefit from the ocean as a global commons. But as you all know, piracy activity has been occurring as evidenced by events in the Gulf of Aden and Malacca Straits, and maritime drug trafficking and terrorism routes have also been utilized. Dealing with them has become an important challenge. In addition, increasing maritime activity has increased the risk of unforeseen accidents at sea.

These concerns are shared across vast and diverse maritime areas and are diverse in their nature, necessitating the cooperation of littoral states. Further, they cannot be dealt with by one country.

I would like to touch upon the Japan-U.S. relationship here. When considering the stability of this widespread maritime region that stretches throughout Asia, we cannot exclude the United States. For more than 60 years, the United States has secured the safety of the ocean as a global commons. U.S. forces alone have the capacity to deploy throughout this entire area. Although the specific circumstances and the maritime region’s individual characteristics must be considered when addressing concerns, the United States plays a large role in keeping watch over this entire region. I think that a continued close and cooperative relationship between Japan and the United States will play an important role in securing maritime safety.

[(1) Regarding SLOCs as “areas” from “lines”]

Up until now, when we thought of securing the safety of maritime routes, we thought in terms of “lines,” as in Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC). However, it is clear that securing the safety of maritime routes in a uniform and standardized manner would be difficult due to differing situations and threats in various maritime regions, and the differences in capabilities of various littoral states. Instead, it may be more practical to divide up SLOCs into several maritime regions, or “areas,” in order to come up with measures to ensure maritime security in relation to each area’s specific circumstances.

[(2) Regarding wide maritime areas as blocks]

If we divide up the maritime area between the Middle East and Northeast Asia into Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Middle East from east to west, we can explain the situation as follows.

In Northeast Asia, which includes Japan, while non-state actor activity such as piracy and terrorism is infrequent, there are still traditional/conventional destabilizing concerns. Southeast Asia is a key strategic area encompassing maritime routes connecting the east and west. The region has many littoral states and issues involving territorial rights and maritime borders remain unresolved. Terrorism and piracy also exist in the region along with other instability concerns. However, the littoral states have formed a core in counter-piracy efforts to take active measures in the Malacca Straits. In the Indian Ocean that spans from the Malacca Straits to the Middle East, international measures against terrorism continue, and efforts to stabilize the region such as multilateral naval exercises led by the Indian Navy are also in progress. Lastly in the Middle East, acts of terrorism and piracy off the coast of Somalia occur frequently, and as you well know, are being dealt with by the international community in a collaborative manner.

[(3) Measures taken in each area]

If we look at the entire maritime area from Northeast Asia to the Middle East, there is a wide variety of efforts underway. Take counter-piracy measures for example; around 30 countries have deployed naval vessels off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden based on a series of UN Security Council Resolutions. In Asia, the “Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP)” was adopted, allowing for the establishment and operation of the Information Sharing Centre. These measures are truly the culmination of regional efforts to secure maritime safety.

[4. Measures by Japan and its Ministry of Defense and Self-Defense Forces]

Now, I would like to share with you several specific examples of what Japan is doing for maritime security.

[(1) Counter-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden]

We will start with the aforementioned counter-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. About 2,000 Japan-related ships pass through this maritime region every year. For Japan, this area makes up a portion of the SLOC that ties East Asia with Europe and the Middle East. As such, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force dispatched two escort ships and two P-3C patrol aircraft to work from both the sea and the air to protect ships from acts of piracy. Escort operations are aimed to protect commercial vessels of all nations, and information collected by the P-3Cs are shared with relevant organizations and militaries, allowing international collaboration during operations. As piracy activity has yet to be seen as subsiding, Japan intends to continue our anti-piracy operations in the future.

[(2) Joint exercises by the Self-Defense Forces]

Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have been engaged in various types of exercises with the countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including training in submarine rescue, minesweeping, search and rescue, and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

[(3) Pacific Partnership 2010]

A Maritime Self-Defense Force transport vessel and a joint medical team made up of Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Force members, joining forces with about 20 volunteers from various Japanese NGOs, are participating in “Pacific Partnership 2010,” led by U.S. Pacific Command. The team is engaged in medical activities in Vietnam and Cambodia. Japan intends to consider continuing our proactive participation in these and other types of activities in the future.

[(4) Capacity-building]

The joint exercises that the Maritime Self-Defense Force conducts with other forces not only contribute to confidence building between the MSDF and their counterparts but also improve the capabilities of both the MSDF and their counterparts, as well as enhance operational collaboration.

As I previously stated, the responsibilities of the littoral states with regard to maritime safety are increasing. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism via the ocean can weaken a state’s ability to govern, and can destabilize the region.

Standing on the perspective that ensuring the safe and stable use of the ocean through multinational cooperation in enhancing the capacity of littoral states in securing maritime safety will benefit the shared interest of the international community, Japan intends to continue its support for capacity-building in the form of defense exchanges and cooperation.

[(5) Preparations for unforeseen accidents at sea]

There is also the need to consider ways in which to prevent unforeseen accidents from occurring.

A variety of vessels navigate the seas daily, and once a maritime accident occurs, serious damage can be incurred and precious lives can be lost. There is also the possibility of environmental pollution. I believe that maintaining a system and organizational structure that supports safe maritime passage is meaningful.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to completely eliminate the chances of unforeseen circumstances or emergency situations, like a collision. When unfortunate circumstances arise, the existence of agreed-upon protocols for the prevention of accidents, and a communications mechanism that could be used when accidents occur, would be valuable tools to prevent the situation from further worsening.

This April, when naval vessels of the People’s Liberation Army Navy of China carried out what was seen as training activity in the East China Sea, a ship-based helicopter also engaged in flight training. At that time, the ship-based helicopter flew in extremely close to a Maritime Self-Defense Force escort ship, and this happened again out in the Pacific Ocean. These flights were seen as dangerous to the safe navigation of our ships. At last November’s Japan-China defense ministerial meeting in Tokyo, the two countries agreed to have exchanges between our defense authorities on establishing a maritime communications mechanism linking Japan and China’s defense organizations.

[(6) Sinking of South Korea’s patrol ship]

I offer my heartfelt condolences for the 46 victims whose lives were lost in the March 26 sinking of the South Korean naval escort ship, the “Cheonan,” and to their families. Japan offers its support to the South Korean government, and along with the international community, strongly condemns North Korea’s behavior.

Japan has continued to enforce a series of sanctions against North Korea, including a ban against North Korean imports and port access for all North Korea-flagged ships. And on May 28, under instructions from Prime Minister Hatoyama, Japan enacted a cargo inspection law to allow for the inspection of North Korean imports and exports banned under UN Security Counsel Resolutions. Japan intends to continue to collaborate and work closely with all relevant countries including South Korea and the United States in order to handle the issue of North Korea.

[5. Conclusion]

Looking toward the end of this year, the Japanese Ministry of Defense must proceed with the completion of two important projects that provide the foundations for our national security policies: the review of the National Defense Program Guidelines and the decision on the Mid-Term Defense Program. Details are yet to be worked out, but we hope to decide on general directions by this summer. In the current security environment, issues such as anti-terrorism, disaster relief, and causes of instability against maritime safety have created nebulous conditions that are neither peacetime nor contingencies. We take note of the fact that seamless operations are of increasing importance in these nebulous conditions. We recognize the need to consider these issues, which require effective response by our defense capabilities, and to reflect our consideration of these issues in our defense policies.

The ocean, as a global commons, is the foundation of prosperity for those of us living in the Asia-Pacific region. Looking toward the future, I believe we all need to makes efforts so that everyone can enjoy the ocean’s blessings. Japan for its part will continue to make efforts not only on its own, but also in various forms of cooperation with the countries in the region such as capacity-building, joint exercises and activities like Pacific Partnership.