On April 5, the Morning Edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun included an editorial regarding the 4th Basic Plan on Ocean Policy, about which a Cabinet decision will soon be made. It was titled, “Japan Should Improve its Monitoring Capability to Defend its Interests.”
The government released a draft of its Basic Plan on Ocean Policy, which is its guideline for ocean policy. This plan is formulated roughly every five years according to the Basic Act on Ocean Policy enacted in 2007. The next plan will be the fourth. A Cabinet decision will be made soon while referring to opinions submitted by the public.
Japan has the world’s sixth largest area including its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Rare-earth elements and other mineral resources are found extensively on the seabed. Efforts to maintain order in the ocean, and also for stable governance, are directly connected to our national interests.
This draft is unique because it underscores the need to prepare for armed attacks. It specifies a procedure for the minister of defense to direct and regulate the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and states the importance of joint exercises by the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and JCG.
China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels repeatedly intrude into Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands. This is the background to why the draft refers to emergency responses – it seems the government is aware of this serious situation in which an unexpected event could occur at any time.
The JCG cannot respond if an isolated island is occupied by heavily armed fishermen from another country. We must clarify the roles of the JSDF and JCG, and repeatedly conduct exercises based on a range of possible scenarios.
The draft also states the importance of improving underwater monitoring capabilities and sets forth a policy supporting the development of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), also known as underwater drones.
Chinese oceanographic survey ships launched observation equipment without permission in Japan’s EEZ offshore Ishigaki Island last year. China also frequently does surveys near Okinotori Island, thought to be for the purpose of surveying marine resources.
Japan cannot overlook these self-righteous actions by China. The government must deal firmly with China while enhancing its vigilance and surveillance abilities.
The draft emphasizes the importance of industrial development, including offshore wind power generation.
Wind power is generated at offshore locations including the Port of Noshiro in Akita Prefecture. However, because there are not many suitable sites for fixed-bottom turbines in Japan (which has few wide, shallow beaches), the draft indicates a plan to install floating turbines in the EEZ.
On March 21, The Sankei Shimbun website posted detailed information about the background to the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy. This article in the Seiron (“Just Arguments”) column was titled, “Tokai University Professor Yoshihiko Yamada on the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy That Determines Japan’s Fate.” It read:
The government formulated and released a draft of the 4th Basic Plan on Ocean Policy. It describes the awareness that, “More than ever, Japan is facing serious threats and risks to its national interests in territorial waters and other areas.” It explains the necessity of being wary against such threats, including missile launches by North Korea, territorial incursions by CCG patrol boats (CCG vessels), unlawful marine surveys, and collaborative shows of force by Chinese and Russian warships. I see this as the government declaring that it will respond harshly to China, Russia, North Korea, and other threats. It will also strive to improve Japan’s capabilities – including defense capabilities and its ability to enforce maritime law – and make efforts to strengthen its ability to deter and cope with attacks.
The first Shinzo Abe Cabinet created the Basic Act on Ocean Policy in 2007, aiming to “realize a new oceanic State” for “the sound development of the economy and society of our State and to improve the stability of the lives of citizenry.” This law has six articles that are its basic principles: “Harmonization of the Development and Use of the Oceans with the Conservation of Marine Environment,” “Securing the Safety and Security on the Oceans,” “Improvement of Scientific Knowledge of the Oceans,” “Sound Development of Ocean Industries,” “Comprehensive Governance of the Oceans,” and “International Partnership with regard to the Oceans.”
The sea areas under Japanese jurisdiction must be peaceful to realize these basic principles. Japan has to prevent other countries from taking actions of aggression and obstruction. Enhancing the ocean security structure will support Japan’s overall ocean policy. To implement the ocean policy that determines Japan’s future, ocean security must be regarded as one of our most important national policies.
In the Basic Act on Ocean Policy, the government is obligated to formulate and execute policy in line with these basic principles. The plan stipulates that local governments have the duty to draft and implement policy according to their region’s natural and societal conditions. The national and local governments are obligated to safeguard Japan’s land and sea territories to implement its ocean policy, and are required to take specific actions to this end.
As The Yomiuri Shimbun article describes, the Basic Plan draft concerns ocean security policy – including preparations for armed attack situations – with a fair amount of detail about the roles of different ministries and government offices. I think this makes a great deal of sense, considering the situation in which Japan finds itself today. The plan calls for Japan to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) as one measure for strengthening national security policy, and also delineates the need to develop and utilize technologies such as AUVs (underwater drones), which I mentioned in my April Apple Town essay.
In his Seiron column, Yamada says the Senkaku Islands symbolize how national and local governments are responsible for protecting territorial land and waters. He writes:
The Senkaku Islands are part of Ishigaki City in Okinawa Prefecture. In January of last year, the Ishigaki municipal government conducted a marine survey in the Senkaku Islands area. This marine environment and ocean resource survey was according to natural and social conditions, as described in the Basic Act on Ocean Policy. It was a feasible measure for Ishigaki to fulfill its obligations. The national government approved this survey as a local government activity conforming with international and domestic law, and ordered the JCG and JMSDF to guard the survey ship.
Survey preparations were made in absolute secrecy. Two CCG ships that violated Japanese territorial waters during the survey were prevented by the JCG from approaching the research vessel. The survey has been positively evaluated as an active demonstration of Japan’s administrative rights.
Rather than just conducting one survey, Ishigaki City performed another survey in the Senkaku area in January of this year. It was announced in advance and information was conveyed to the Chinese authorities.
The municipal government carried out this research in detailed coordination with the JCG. Drones were used to survey the islands, revealing less vegetation, soil collapse, and a dried-up waterway on the south side of Uotsuri Island. It is thought some damage was caused by goats. If prompt measures are not taken, there is the risk that the ecosystem could collapse and the island could become unusable.
Although four CCG vessels trespassed into territorial waters on the day of the survey, the JCG’s early response prevented them from approaching the research ship. Two vessels – including a large, heavily armed CCG ship – were stationed outside Japanese territorial waters, but they avoided taking any actions, likely due to the JCG guard. This included almost 20 JCG patrol ships, which were also guarding nearby fishing boats. JMSDF patrol planes were also flown overhead.
Having seen how Japan has strengthened its defense of the Senkaku Islands, I think it will take the Chinese authorities quite some time to rebuild their invasion structure. As for China’s Taiwan strategy, the People’s Liberation Army is constrained while the United States is cooperating to help defend Taiwan. Japan now has the chance to establish administrative rights to the Senkaku Islands and demonstrate them to other countries. We must take this opportunity to land on the islands, conduct environmental research, and recover the remains of World War II soldiers stranded on Uotsuri Island. We should also build a base for administering the islands.
Ishigaki City’s survey was purposefully funded by the Furusato Nozei program. This shows that citizens are hoping for actions to safeguard Japan’s territorial land and waters.
The government outlines the concept of comprehensive ocean security in its Basic Plan on Ocean Policy. Steps should be taken to administer and utilize the islands, beyond vigilance by the JCG and JMSDF. More than anything, comprehensive ocean security in the Senkaku area will determine the outcome of Japan’s ocean policy.
Many Japanese people are unaware of this survey by Ishigaki City. The CCG set a new record by continuously stationing its ships in Japanese territory from the end of March until early April. As Yamada recommends, I believe the national government must quickly clarify its rights to the Senkaku Islands, such as by building an administrative base. This would help prevent Chinese from landing on and illegally occupying the Senkaku Islands on the pretense of an emergency.
The Basic Plan on Ocean Policy states that Japan will promote industrial use of the ocean. It refers to resource development policy including methane hydrate, which is thought to be plentiful in Japan’s nearby waters. It also mentions developing technologies and legislation for offshore wind power generation in our EEZ, with an eye to achieving carbon neutrality. The terms “EEZ” and “territorial waters” refer to two different things. The EEZ is larger, and can span 200 nautical miles (approximately 370 kilometers) from the coast. All nations have sovereign rights to economic activities in their EEZ, including natural resource exploration and development. They also have the right to carry out scientific marine surveys, as well as jurisdiction over efforts to protect and conserve the ocean environment. Building offshore wind power facilities would confer major advantages in Japan’s EEZ, but this would require floating turbine technologies, of which there are few examples across the world. International law permits the construction of offshore wind power facilities. We must consider this while also thinking about security, including ship navigation.
It will take over a decade to resolve these issues. However, Japan absolutely must become a decarbonized society, and my hope is that many people will devote their intelligence to accomplish this.
On December 24, 2015, The Sankei Shimbun website posted a fascinating article by Kazuo Ueda, entitled, “Japanese is the Only Language That Has Never Been Colonized: Before a Globally Oriented Mindset, One Should Strive to be a Great Japanese Person.” It read:
Because the British Empire ruled the Seven Seas and colonized more than 60 countries and regions, English is the most widely used language across the globe today. Spanish and Portuguese swept over Central and South America in a similar fashion. Just like English, the language of France spread into its colonies in Asia and Africa, and Russian was used in Eastern Europe and Central Asia during the era of the Soviet Union.
Japan is the sole exception – its language has never been replaced by Chinese, Mongolian, English, or French. Japan repelled the Mongol invasions during the Middle Ages. At the end of the Edo Period it evaded the colonial ambitions of the United Kingdom (which supported the Emperor) and France (which supported the Shogunate). Japan resolved its domestic conflict and became a modern state on its own. Even during the American occupation after World War II, the Hepburn system of romanization did not compel Japan to begin using English (in other words, the high literacy rate and advanced Japanese-language education impeded these efforts to introduce English). Japan has been able to maintain its native language as a major cultural power for the past 2,000 years.
While Japan is not a very large country, it has retained a sense of unity through its common language. An island nation that is fairly close to the continent, Japan developed in a distinctive way while adopting good systems and necessary practices from the continent while rejecting bad customs like eunuchs and foot-binding. American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington divided the world into eight civilizations. He named Japan one of these civilizations, saying this isolated civilization is composed of a single nation with a subjective sense of self. Going forward, Japan must make strong efforts to implement a substantial ocean policy that guarantees the survival of our truly unique culture.
April 14 (Friday), 6:00 p.m.