Asian piracy talks commence

Delegates of 15 nations participate in Tokyo conference

A two-day antipiracy conference of coast guard officials and maritime policymakers from 14 Asian countries opened Thursday in Tokyo.

“It is the first ever attempt to hold a conference gathering of officials of coast guards from Asian countries,” Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori told the opening session of the meeting at a Tokyo hotel.

“This clearly indicates the firm resolve of the participating states’ fight against piracy,” Mori said.

Participants in the Regional Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships include top coast guard officials from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, South Korea and Japan, and maritime policy officials from Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Mori said a joint effort is crucial if piracy, which often involves a number of states as well as international crime syndicates, is to be eradicated.

“I am convinced that discussions on how to strengthen coordination and establish cooperation among the coast guards of Asian countries will bear fruit and be a big step toward the elimination of piracy,” he said. Last November, then-Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi called for such a meeting to discuss measures to tackle an increase in piracy in Southeast Asian waters.

Obuchi made the proposal at the informal summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China and South Korea, which approved it.

Mori pledged to expand upon the foundation laid by Obuchi, who was felled by a stroke early this month and remains in a coma. According to a report by the International Maritime Bureau, more than 30 percent of piracy attacks worldwide in the first three months of this year occurred off Indonesia.

Data compiled by the Nippon Foundation indicate an increasing incidence of Japanese-registered vessels and freighters operated by Japanese companies being attacked, with 15 cases in 1997, 20 in 1998 and 34 last year.

The conference is organized by the Foreign Ministry, the Transport Ministry and the Japan Coast Guard, and is supported by the Nippon Foundation.