National / Politics

In major ocean policy shift, security and remote-island defense set to become Japan's top priority


The government has proposed shifting the focus of its basic ocean policy from resources to security through a review it conducts every five years, amid concerns over Chinese maritime aggression and North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

According to a draft of the new plan shown to task forces from the Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito on Friday, the government plans to make coastal security and remote-island defense the top policy priority.

The draft cites Chinese government ships’ and warships repeated intrusions into Japanese waters as well as North Korea’s firing of missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone as reasons for the major priority shift from the current focus on maritime resources development and management.

“Our nation’s maritime interests are exposed to serious threats and risks more than ever before,” the draft says. The situation increasingly worsen unless necessary measures are taken, it adds.

The government is aiming for the proposed plan to be adopted at an April 27 Cabinet meeting, so that it can be incorporated into the country’s basic defense program, scheduled to be reviewed at the end of this year.

The draft underscores the importance of establishing a maritime domain awareness system for sharing information collected by Japanese government agencies and other countries for use in monitoring unidentified vessels and handling natural disasters.

Specifically, it calls for beefing up radars set up on Self-Defense Forces aircraft and along coasts and utilizing advanced satellites belonging to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Referring extensively to China’s maritime expansion, the draft puts “unilateral moves to change the status quo and attempts to establish such changes as accomplished facts” in sea lanes in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea as threats to Japan.

To block such moves, Japan plans to bolster its involvement in port development and management in countries along the shipping lanes while also helping them build maritime security capabilities, the draft says.

In view of China’s stepped-up resources development in the Arctic, the government has also upgraded “Arctic policy promotion” to one of major goals in the new plan.

To enhance the plan’s effectiveness, the 86-page draft makes clear each government agency’s responsibilities and elaborates on measures to be taken.

The government is aiming next to create a road map for the plan to check the progress of specific programs each fiscal year.