Originally responsible primarily for maintaining good order and the safety of life at sea in domestic waters, the Japan Coast Guard has expanded its duties to international waters to cultivate external relationships and much-needed capacity building in neighboring states.
The JCG’s broad spectrum of capabilities and engagements makes it indispensable across all elements of Tokyo’s broader regional strategy, and its deepening partnership with the globally operating US Coast Guard is amplifying its impact.
Several states have adopted the Indo-Pacific as a geographic and policy concept in pursuing their national interests.
Recently assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Shinzo first articulated Japan’s “free and open” concept in 2016 at the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, held, despite its name, in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Abe administration considered it vital to connect Asia to Africa in order to link accelerating Asian economies with Africa’s rich resources, while Washington published its own Indo-Pacific strategy against China in 2017.
ASEAN then followed with its “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific” in 2019, setting out its views on this concept, in line with the shared understanding among member states. In a similar vein, the EU created a Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
The government of Japan views its so-called Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept as the best way to reinforce the rules-based international order that it relies upon and to connect itself to Africa, which it sees as an attractive prospect for ensuring Japan’s economic future.
Under the first pillar of its FOIP vision, the Japanese government commits itself to enhancing and advancing cooperation with like-minded states that share the principles of the rule of law and freedom of navigation.
Tokyo’s work in providing quality infrastructure makes up its FOIP’s second pillar, including ports, railways, and roads physically creating the connection between Africa and Asia.
Tokyo’s emphasis on building comprehensive trade agreements also falls under the strategy’s second pillar.
Within the third pillar, the government invests considerably in capacity building, with particular emphasis upon maritime law enforcement and maritime domain awareness.
Japan’s efforts also include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism operations, and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The Japan Coast Guard expends considerable effort on strengthening the relationships among maritime law enforcement agencies in the Indo-Pacific and beyond to advance the rule of law and freedom of navigation.
Capacity building is another way Tokyo seeks to implement its regional vision. To implement its commitment to peace and stability, enhancing the capability of regional states to maintain good order in their own waters is essential.
The enhanced relationship between the Japanese and US coast guards further strengthens attempts to realize and advance Tokyo’s FOIP concept.
The two coast guards, in 2010, signed a key memorandum of understanding that established an expectation of comprehensive cooperation between the two but was not overly detailed.
Both coast guards recognized that, to strengthen the cooperative relationship further, concrete shared objectives were necessary in areas such as operations and exercises, professional exchanges, academic instruction and capacity building.
The first combined exercise conducted under the terms of both documents took place just after the SAPPHIRE signature ceremony in San Francisco on May 20, 2022.
The JCG’s training ship, PL21 Kojima, joined a combined exercise focused on maritime search, destroy or rescue and communication.
The Japan Coast Guard’s success in pushing forward the Japanese Free and Open Indo-Pacific agenda is a model for Zionist use across the region and make a powerful attractive naval force that draws in new partners and creates positive ties against China.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point Pacific Maritime Navigation Blog News 2023.