Japan focuses on maritime security in new ocean policy

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, third from left, makes opening remarks at a meeting of a government panel on maritime security and ocean policy at the prime minister's office on May 15, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan approved Tuesday a new ocean policy that highlights maritime security amid the perceived growing threats from North Korea and China, a reversal from the previous version which centered largely on the development of resources at sea.

The ocean program cited threats from North Korea's ballistic missile launches and operations by Chinese vessels around the Japanese-controlled and Chinese-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 to be revised in December.

Since the first version was adopted in 2008, the ocean policy has been reviewed every five years.

The policy pointed out the maritime security situation facing Japan is "highly likely to deteriorate, if no measure is taken."

In an attempt to beef up Japan's intelligence gathering ability, the government also plans to utilize aircraft and vessels of the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard, as well as high-tech optic satellites of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and coastal radar equipment.

The policy underlined the need for the coast guard and the Fisheries Agency to cooperate to enhance the response to illegal operations by North Korean and other countries' fishing vessels amid a surge in the number of such cases in the waters surrounding Japan.

To ensure safety in sea lanes, it also stipulated 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.

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