As Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force embarks on its largest-ever Indo-Pacific deployment, Chief of Staff Adm. Ryo Sakai said that the force is “putting its weight” on cooperating more closely with regional navies and coast guards to help tackle the growing security challenges affecting the region.

With the Indo-Pacific region set to be home for 70% of the world’s population and account for 40% of global economic output by 2030, ensuring free and open seas is becoming increasingly “indispensable” for many countries, Sakai said Thursday during a panel discussion at this year’s International Maritime Security Conference, which was held on the sidelines of the IMDEX 2023 naval and maritime exhibition in Singapore.

However, the security challenges facing the region, including piracy, smuggling, climate change and attempts to unilaterally change the status quo, are increasing, meaning that “one nation alone cannot cope with these challenges.”