Copyright GLOBIS

Since the 2010 Senkaku boat collision incident (collision of a Chinese fishing boat into Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels), there have been a series of approaches by unidentified ships and spy ships as well as numerous large-scale marine accidents. Because of these incidents, the importance of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), which protects Japanese waters, has been increasing to a significant degree. However, the scale of the JCG is very small, with the number of full-time personnel being about 13,000 and the budget being around 180 billion yen. It is essential to strengthen the functionality of the JCG in order to protect Japanese national interests.

1. Drastically Enhance the System, Budget, Personnel, and Equipment of the Japan Coast Guard!

The 2010 Senkaku boat collision incident caused by China is a typical tactic in China’s expansionism. China repeatedly invades using private fishing boats until such behavior becomes normalized. It then dispatches governmental monitoring vessels in the name of protecting its fishing boats, thus making its exercise of administrative rights a gradual fait accompli.

To address this situation, the function of non-military administrative and police authorities is important in defending territorial lands and seas in modern times. As long as there is a neighboring major power overtly seeking to invade its waters, Japan has no time to lose in enhancing the JCG’s function to protect Japanese waters at the stage of exercising policing powers. It is necessary to fundamentally enhance the personnel and equipment of the JCG, including by expanding budgets, increasing the number of coast guard officers, and enhancing the functionality of patrol boats.

2. Expand the JCG’s International Cooperation!

The sea connects Japan to the world. Cooperation between the JCG and coast guards of foreign countries is therefore important. The JCG is constantly dispatching specialists in times of peace to the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian nations as well as Micronesian countries to provide expertise and knowledge. It is necessary to strengthen cooperative relationships with these countries and maintain and build trust with them.

3. Create an “Air Guard” under the Japan Coast Guard!

Japan has a large marine area. To guard these seas, it is effective to enhance the monitoring capacity from the air. The JCG currently possesses about 30 aircraft and about 40 helicopters. It is necessary to increase the number of aircraft and aircraft carriers and create an “Air Guard” under the Japan Coast Guard.

With regard to the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF), the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), and the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) possess 452, 448, and 176 aircraft, respectively. The JCG should at least expand and improve its aviation capacity to a level significantly higher than the present level and deploy its aviation resources with the highest priority in areas to the southwest.

4. Establish a Territorial Waters Guard Act and Make the Violation of Territorial Waters a Statutory Crime! Strengthen Cooperation between the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces!

In response to the Senkaku incident, the JCG’s authority to exercise its powers has been extended but not sufficiently. At present, because there is no statutory crime of “violation of territorial waters,” such violations have so far been addressed under the Fishery Act and/or the Immigration Law. It is urgently necessary to establish a territorial waters guard act and make the violation of territorial waters a statutory crime in order to extend the JCG’s authority to exercise its investigatory and police powers.

It is reasonable that the MSDF and the ASDF are superior to the JCG in terms of equipment and capacity. However, if this superior power of the SDF cannot be used in exercising maritime policing duties, an activity that has been increasingly important, the national interests will be damaged. There is currently a certain level of cooperation, such as the provision of information from the MSDF but, legally, the SDF cannot exercise its police powers and therefore cannot cooperate directly with the JCG in maritime policing duties.

Maritime policing duties should be legally and clearly granted to the MSDF so that it can address any incidents in a comprehensive manner. To avoid criticism that this will allow for the unlimited expansion of military powers, duties and cooperative activities for which the MSDF will be responsible should be listed within specified limits.

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