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Japan focuses on maritime security in new ocean policy

Kyodo

Japan approved Tuesday a new ocean policy that highlights maritime security, amid perceived growing threats from North Korea and China, in a reversal from the previous version which focused largely on sea resource development.

The ocean program cited threats from North Korea’s launching of ballistic missiles, and operations by Chinese vessels around the Japan-controlled and China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

“Amid an increasingly severe maritime situation, the government will come together to protect our territorial waters and interests at sea,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting of the government panel on ocean policy.

The contents of the third Basic Plan on Ocean Policy are expected to be reflected in the government’s defense buildup guidelines that are set to be revised in December. Since its first adoption in 2008, the ocean policy has been reviewed every five years.

The policy pointed out that the maritime security situation facing the nation is “highly likely to deteriorate, if no measure is taken.”

The government also plans to make use of coastal radar equipment, aircraft and vessels from the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard, as well as high-tech optical satellites of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, to strengthen the nation’s intelligence gathering abilities.

The policy underscores the need for cooperation between the coast guard and the Fisheries Agency to enhance responses to illegal operations by North Korea and fishing vessels from other countries, amid a surge in the number of such cases in the waters surrounding Japan.

To ensure sea lane safety, it also stipulates the government’s promotion of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” strategy advocated by Abe for maintaining and strengthening a free and open order in the region based on the rule of law.