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Ensuring Security of Sea Surrounding Japan

In order for the SDF to respond swiftly to various contingencies around Japan, which consists of more than 6,000 islands and is surrounded by a vast body of water, it is extremely important to ensure the safety of the country’s territorial waters and airspace through constant, ongoing activities implemented by the SDF, including continuous intelligence-gathering, patrol and surveillance activities in Japan’s territorial waters and airspace. Through such activities, Japan also contributes to the stabilization of the security environment in the Asia-Pacifi c region.

Surveillance in Waters Surrounding Japan

(1) Basic Concept

The SDF routinely and continuously engages in surveillance activities in the waters surrounding Japan so that it can respond to various emergencies promptly and seamlessly.

(2) Response by the MOD and SDF

The MSDF routinely patrols the waters surrounding Hokkaido, the Sea of Japan, and the East China Sea, using P-3C fi xed-wing patrol aircraft to monitor the numerous vessels that sail through those waters. Furthermore, surveillance activities are conducted with the fl exible use of destroyers and aircraft as required. Thus, a state of readiness is maintained for responding quickly to situations in areas surrounding Japan. In addition, GSDF coastal surveillance units and MSDF security posts conduct 24- hour surveillance activities in the major sea straits. The conceptual image of surveillance activities conducted by the MOD and SDF is as shown in Fig. III-1-1-1.

In recent years, activities by the Chinese Navy and government ships in waters near Japan, including the East China Sea, have been increasing and expanding rapidly. In 2012, for example, there were six incidents of activity by Chinese Navy vessels involving the passage through the southwestern region and one incident of such activity was also confi rmed in waters south of Okinawa. Moreover, since the Japanese government’s acquisition of the ownership of the Senkaku Islands in September 2012, Chinese governmental ships have intermittently intruded into Japanese territorial waters. Therefore, the MOD and SDF are strengthening cooperation with relevant ministries and agencies, including routine information sharing with the Japan Coast Guard, so as to ensure that there is no gap in Japan’s defense and security systems. (See Fig. III-1-1-2)

Response to Submarines Submerged in Japan’s Territorial Waters

(1) Basic Concept

With respect to foreign national submarines navigating underwater in Japan’s territorial waters2, an order for maritime security operations3 will be issued promptly. The submarine will be requested to navigate on the surface of the water and show its fl ag, in accordance with international law, and in the event that the submarine does not comply with the request, it will be requested by the SDF to leave Japanese territorial waters.

(2) Ministry of Defense and SDF Efforts

The MSDF is enhancing capabilities for detecting, identifying, and tracking foreign submarines navigating underwater in the territorial waters of Japan, as well as making the Japanese government’s intentions clear, and improving capabilities for responding to them in shallow water areas. In November 2004, the MSDF P-3C observed a submerged Chinese nuclear-powered submarine navigating underwater in Japanese territorial waters around Sakishima Islands. In response to this, an order for maritime security operations was issued, while MSDF vessels and aircraft continued to track the submarine until it entered the high seas. In May 2013, although there was no intrusion into the territorial waters of Japan, the MSDF P-3C observed submarines navigating underwater in the contiguous zone in succession (in the waters west of Amami Oshima (Kagoshima Prefecture) on the night of May 2, in the waters south of Kumejima (Okinawa Prefecture) at midnight of May 12, and in the waters south of Minami Daitojima (Okinawa Prefecture) in the early morning of May 19). Although international law does not forbid foreign submarines navigating underwater in the contiguous zone of coastal nations, these navigations were announced under the recognition of situations requiring close attention, in light of ongoing emerging issues of observation of submarines navigating underwater in the contiguous zone of the Japanese territorial waters.

Response to Armed Special Operations Vessels

(1) Basic Concept

The Japan Coast Guard, as a police organization, is primarily responsible for responding to suspicious armed special operations vessels (unidentifi ed vessels). However, in the event that it is deemed extremely diffi cult or impossible for the Japan Coast Guard to respond to a situation, an order for maritime security operations will be issued in a timely manner and the SDF will respond to the situation in cooperation with the Japan Coast Guard. In light of the lessons learned from the incident involving an unidentifi ed vessel off Noto Peninsula in 1999 and the incident involving an unidentifi ed vessel in the sea southwest of Kyushu in 2001, the Japanese Government has been taking all necessary precautionary measures while the Ministry of Defense and the SDF have strengthened cooperation with other relevant ministries and agencies.

(2) Ministry of Defense and SDF Efforts

The MSDF is taking the following steps: 1) deployment of missile boats; 2) establishment of the MSDF Special Boarding Unit4; 3) equipment of destroyers with machine guns; 4) furnishing forcible maritime interdiction equipment (fl at-nose shells)5; and 5) improving the suffi ciency ratio of essential military vessel personnel. In addition, the Ministry of Defense and the Japan Coast Guard carry out regular mutual training, information exchange, joint exercises, etc. Based on the “Manual on Joint Strategies concerning Unidentifi ed Vessels,” which was prepared jointly by the Defense Agency and the Japan Coast Guard in 1999, the MSDF and the Japan Coast Guard carry out joint exercises involving pursuit and capture guidelines for unidentifi ed vessels and communications, etc., strengthening cooperation between the two organizations.

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