Coast guard stresses protecting territory

by Jun Hongo

Protecting Japan’s maritime interests from its neighbors has become a key element of the Japan Coast Guard’s duties, according to annual report released Tuesday.

The Japan Coast Guard Annual Report for 2009 includes for the first time a section devoted to describing recent threats to Japan’s territory, saying unlawful activities and roaming by Chinese and Taiwanese ships have “breached Japan’s sovereignty.”

“We believed it necessary to separate the section on protecting Japan’s territory from overall maritime safety,” a coast guard official told reporters.

“There were some severe (breaches), including demonstrations by Taiwanese activists and Chinese survey boats within our territory,” another official added.

Japan, China and Taiwan all claim sovereignty over the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Two Chinese survey ships were spotted in Japan’s territorial waters in December and a coast guard patrol boat collided with a Taiwanese sports fishing boat near the uninhabited islets in June, straining Taipei-Tokyo ties.

The annual report reiterates that the coast guard will handle future intrusions “firmly and quickly” to protect Japan’s rights. It also says China’s natural resources development in the East China Sea has been monitored “to protect Japan’s maritime interests.”

The report reviews the coast guard’s efforts off Somalia to fight pirates, saying officers have been aboard two Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers since March on antipiracy duties.

The report includes a proposal to assisting human resources development in Somalia and surrounding countries to curb piracy, touching on the success the coast guard achieved in fighting pirates in the Malacca Strait.

On the antipiracy law now before the Diet, a coast guard official said it would sufficiently enhance the rules of engagement for Japanese forces.