To ensure the protection of Japanese territories and interests while avoiding clashes with neighboring countries trying to disrupt the maritime order, it is imperative to bolster the security system of the Japan Coast Guard in a planned manner.
The JCG called for a record ¥230.3 billion, or an increase of 9 percent over the previous year, in its budgetary request for fiscal 2018. The JCG will have a 6,500-ton patrol boat built — the largest it has ever had — to establish a five-boat patrol system. It is also contemplating purchasing a jet for maritime surveillance. These are the pillars of the plan.
The government compiled a medium-term policy on strengthening maritime security for the first time at the end of last year. The JCG is required to play expanded roles, including territorial patrols and measures against terrorism, in addition to rescue operations in times of sea disasters and the maintenance of maritime safety. Based on the compiled policy, the equipment and personnel of the JCG must steadily be expanded.
Monday is the fifth anniversary of the Senkaku Islands being nationalized. At that time in 2012, the JCG possessed 51 large patrol boats, each over 1,000 tons, against just 40 held by China.
China has rapidly built up its equipment since then and will likely possess 145 of the large patrol boats in 2019, thus overwhelming the JCG in quantitative terms. It has also commissioned a patrol boat of around 10,000 tons.
The JCG plans to hold 69 large patrol boats in fiscal 2021. The JCG has expanded the fixed number of its personnel to 13,744, up from the 12,689 recorded at the time when the Senkakus were nationalized. However, a further increase in personnel and more effective operations of patrol boats are called for.
Share Japan’s know-how
China has repeatedly intruded upon Japanese territorial waters around the Senkakus, at an average pace of three times a month. Three government vessels per intrusion had been par for the course until last autumn, when the number was increased to four.
To prevent the occurrence of a contingency, the JCG must secure numerical superiority over intruding Chinese vessels and escort them out of the territorial waters by issuing appropriate warnings.
Chinese government vessels are not the only targets that should be watched out for. Illegal fishing operations and unlicensed marine surveys by neighboring foreign countries have been conducted repeatedly in Japanese territorial waters.
Especially in fishing grounds within the exclusive economic zone 300 kilometers off the Noto Peninsula, illegal fishing by boats believed to be registered with North Korea and China has been rapidly increasing. At one time, about 300 such boats converged in the EEZ.
The JCG has cracked down on them since early July, chasing about 820 vessels out of the EEZ by using water cannons and other means.
To prevent illegal acts from becoming any more common, the JCG is required to deal with them quickly in cooperation with municipalities and the Fisheries Agency, among other organizations. In 2014, coral poaching boats converged around the Ogasawara Islands. The JCG is required to be ready to conduct “two-front operations” in waters around the Senkakus and other seas.
The government will host a meeting of director-general-level officials of maritime security entities from various countries in Tokyo on Thursday. Officials from 38 countries, territories and international organizations will be invited. Representatives from China and Russia are also scheduled to attend.
It is essential to share with other countries Japanese know-how on staving off tensions not by military means, but by the JCG’s proper legal enforcement.