S'pore, China among 40 nations invited to Japan's coast guard summit

Some 40 nations, including Singapore and China, have been invited to take part in the world's first global coast guard summit that Japan will host in September.

Admiral Satoshi Nakajima, commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, told a news conference yesterday that it was timely for Japan to take the lead in organising a global summit after 12 Asia-Pacific meetings.

In a message to mark the Marine Day public holiday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday: "Cooperation among maritime agencies around the world is crucial in order to realise open and stable waterways."

Japan has long been a firm advocate for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and has actively contributed to capacity-building in South-east Asia.

Tokyo does not have any claims in the South China Sea, where Beijing uses the nine-dash line to justify its claims in the waterway. But claimant states such as Vietnam and the Philippines have benefited from Japan's support through training and provision of vessels.

The summit announcement comes amid an increasing number of incursions by Chinese vessels into Japanese waters off the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu islets. There have been 19 such cases this year, the most recent on Monday.

But Adm Nakajima stressed there was "no intention to focus on any particular issue" with their Chinese counterparts at the summit.

Separately, Chinese vessels also entered Japanese waters off Aomori prefecture in the north-east on Monday, and off Nagasaki in the south-west last Saturday, in the first such incidents according to local media reports.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday said there was nothing untoward about the incidents. By international law, all ships are granted the right of innocent passage through territorial waters of other countries.

In his message on Monday, Mr Abe noted: "The abundant resources of the wide oceans bring huge potential, but the circumstances in the waters around Japan have become more dire of late."

Last week, a North Korean boat also pointed a gun at a Japanese fishing vessel that was in Japanese waters, prompting it to withdraw.

Dr Heng Yee Kuang of the University of Tokyo said: "Tokyo especially wants to enhance its image as a guardian of the maritime commons and supporting a rules-based order, which is a key goal of the Abe administration."

Dr Lim Tai Wei, adjunct research fellow of Singapore's East Asian Institute, said there was room for Japanese and Chinese coast guards to deepen their cooperation.

The two organisations have been cooperating to fight trafficking and narcotics smuggling, and have agreed to strengthen communication to foster mutual trust.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore, China among 40 nations invited to Japan's coast guard summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe