7:43 pm, June 28, 2017
The Yomiuri ShimbunBolstering the maritime security capabilities of Southeast Asian nations is essential for establishing the rule of law in the South China Sea and ensuring it is a safe and open sea. Assistance in terms of both hardware and software is indispensable.
The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) has conducted separate joint training exercises in the South China Sea with its Philippine and Vietnamese counterparts. This is the first joint training of its kind involving patrol boats provided to the two countries by Japan. The JCG’s patrol boats also took part.
Just as in the East China Sea, illegal fishing operations by Chinese fishing boats accompanied by government vessels are rampant in the South China Sea. If a naval force is mobilized to deal with such illegal fishing activities, it will heighten tensions with China. To avoid such a result, it is important for the matter to be dealt with by a coast guard with police power, thus preventing China from creating faits accomplis.
Coast guards are not long established in Southeast Asian nations. They have yet to accumulate sufficient experience and the ability to clamp down on Chinese and other countries’ fishing boats based on international law.
In recent years, Japan has provided other countries with patrol boats at their request. These patrol boats’ law-enforcement capabilities will improve steadily through repeated joint training.
The joint training with Vietnam was conducted based on a scenario in which a foreign fishing boat was found to be operating illegally, in line with a proposal from Vietnam, which has been having difficulty dealing with poaching by Chinese fishing boats. In the joint training with the Philippines, the scenario involved pirates.
China urged to restrain itself
Sandwiching a poaching boat between rubber dinghies and boarding it to detain suspects. Repeatedly issuing an order to stop and gathering evidence by recording video footage. It is of no small significance that these proper legal procedures have been confirmed through joint training.
Two high-ranking Philippine officials, who have received training on a Japan Coast Guard Academy vessel, boarded one of the patrol boats provided by Japan to take part in the joint training.
Officials from the international information sharing center on pirates also participated. This center was established in Singapore in 2006 as a way to deal with pirates in the Strait of Malacca.
By carrying out the recent joint training, it may be said that the cooperative relationships Japan steadily built up with each nation have been deepened.
The background to these problems is that China has clashed with neighboring nations by insisting on territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Even after being definitively denied its sovereignty claim over the South China Sea by an international arbitration court last July, China has gone ahead with building an artificial island and other facilities there. In cooperation with the United States, Australia and other countries that value the South China Sea as their sea lanes, Japan must call on China to exercise self-restraint.
China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are scheduled to work out a code of conduct as early as August, with a view to preventing disputes in the South China Sea. It is imperative to formulate a code that will rein in China’s self-centered actions.
To maintain maritime order in the South China Sea, Japan, the United States and others must assist the coast guards of Southeast Asian nations to help close the gap in equipment and capability between them and China.