Admiral Tomohisa Takei
The Indo-Pacific is already a center of international trade and often is referred to as the “New Mediterranean Sea.” As maritime trade expands dramatically with economic globalization, maritime security has become extremely important to assure freedom of commerce. Therefore, securing and enhancing open and stable seas based on international rules and norms is a common issue for navies in this region, including the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF.)
Generally speaking, economic growth is accompanied by military buildup and modernization. Most Indo-Pacific countries are maritime states, thus steady economic growth inevitably stimulates naval expansion. A notable feature of naval buildup in the region is the increasing number of submarines. Some expect it will double in two or three decades. Indiscriminate naval proliferation could destabilize the regional balance of power, and unexpected incidents could lead to political and military conflicts, which would affect peace and stability in the region. Conversely, naval power, along with maritime law-enforcement organizations, hold an important role in maritime security, making coordination and cooperation among navies keys to open and stable seas.
There are new movements and forums that discuss the role navies should play in improving open and stable seas. The Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) is one such venue. In its 26-year history, the WPNS has fostered mutual understanding and cooperation among the regional navies. In 2014, the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) was adopted to improve communication between ships and aircraft. Additionally, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) was founded seven years ago. Coordination between the WPNS and the IONS will significantly improve navy-to-navy relationships.
Expanding strong relationships among maritime law-enforcement organizations is a new role given to navies. Although interaction between maritime law-enforcement organizations is limited, controlling “gray-zone” situations that are neither peacetime nor contingencies—without escalating tensions—is critically important in maritime security. The maritime law-enforcement organizations of our respective countries are encouraged to follow the exemplary and established navy-to-navy relationships.
Capacity building of regional naval forces is another important objective in maritime security. The virtual “chain” of cooperation in maritime security breaks at its weakest points. That is why the JMSDF will continue to work with other navies to support naval enhancement through hosting seminars and joint exercises. Establishing common rules such as CUES and sharing experiences in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and counter-piracy operations are examples of such capacity-building measures.
Just as the prosperity of the Mediterranean Sea in the 1st century was only possible because of secured maritime traffic, which allowed coastal countries to trade unencumbered, navies today are paramount for the growth of the Indo-Pacific.