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Gov’t mulls new unit to centralize maritime surveillance information

  • July 14, 2019
  • , Yomiuri , Lead story
  • JMH Translation

The government is mulling the establishment of a new organization for maritime security, Yomiuri Shimbun learned on July 13. The new organization, if established, will compile threat information gathered by relevant ministries and agencies including the Defense Ministry and the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) on suspicious vessels, fishing boats operating illegally and smuggling. This will lead to the government’s prompt response to a threat situation. As a point of contact, the new organization will share information with foreign agencies and strengthen international cooperation on maritime surveillance. The government aims to establish the new unit as early as fiscal 2021.


The councilors’ conference (chaired by President Akihiko Tanaka of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies) under the Headquarters for Ocean Policy (led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe) will start discussions on the establishment of the new unit by convening a meeting this summer to discuss international cooperation on maritime information. The councilors’ conference will submit its proposal to the government next spring. In response, the administration will address the specifics of building the new organization. The government intends to establish the new unit either in the Cabinet Office or the Cabinet Secretariat.


Under this plan, the new unit will handle threat information other than military affairs. It will compile information gathered by the Defense Ministry, JCG, the Fisheries Agency, police, customs and regional immigration bureaus. The compiled information will be shared among the relevant ministries and agencies. Specifically, the new unit will handle information on suspicious vessels, foreign fishing boats operating illegally, smuggling of illegal drugs and firearms, refugees drifting ashore, environmental destruction by waste disposal, floating oil spills from tankers, natural disasters such as tsunamis and high tides, etc.


The new unit will not only compile and share information within the government but also exchange information with relevant foreign counterparts in countries around Japan and coastal countries on sea lanes. Information provided from other countries will be shared within the government. The Self-Defense Forces and the JCG will continue responding to military threats or the equivalent including violations of territorial waters by foreign military or public vessels.


The establishment of the new unit that centralizes maritime threat information is aimed at the government’s prompt detection of and effective response to a threat situation such as a crime at sea. Bureaucratic sectionalism has prevented the speedy flow of information and a timely initial response to a threat situation. Sectionalism has also led the SDF and the JCG to separately keep information, making information sharing among relevant agencies insufficient.


In the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy decided by the cabinet last May, the government embarked on a policy of improving “Maritime Domain Awareness,” the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain. The new unit is aimed at concretizing the policy. Taking into account the existing organizations operating in the U.S. and Singapore that centralize maritime threat information, the government intends to advance its plan to establish a new unit.

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