海自警護活動 海賊対策の実効性を高めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Apr. 8, 2009)
Enhance effectiveness of antipiracy measures
海自警護活動 海賊対策の実効性を高めよ(4月8日付・読売社説)

What should we do to protect as many civilian ships as possible with a limited number of Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels? In addition to the early passage of a bill for the antipiracy mission, we need to rack our brains to come up with ways to enhance the effectiveness of the nation's antipiracy measures.

Two MSDF destroyers--the Sazanami and the Samidare--have been escorting Japan-linked commercial ships in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden off the northern coast of Somalia to protect them from pirate attacks. Since March 30, the two destroyers have escorted 10 Japan-linked vessels by shuttling back and forth in a sea-lane stretching 900 kilometers from east to west, traversing that distance three times.

An average of at least six Japan-linked vessels sail in the zone daily, and the number of vessels that can be escorted in a convoy formation is limited.

In waters off the coast of Somalia, naval vessels from about 20 countries, including Britain, China, France and the United States, are now engaged in protecting commercial vessels from pirates. However, 61 attacks by pirates have already been reported this year--more than half the figure of last year's attacks.

It is hard to say that the countries' antipiracy measures have been successful. Recently, pirate attacks occurred in waters off the east coast of Somalia, where commercial vessels can expect little protection.

This is also a battle of ideas being waged between the international community and pirates. It is vital that Japan closely cooperate with countries concerned and try to develop more effective antipiracy methods.


P-3C planes have key role

One important measure will be the dispatch of MSDF P-3C patrol airplanes.

There reportedly are more than 10 pirate groups, and their mother ships send several small boats to attack commercial vessels. Therefore, Japan will be able to make a greater international contribution if the P-3C aircraft confirms the mother ship's location and shares such information with other countries.

The European Union has switched to a method of intensively patrolling danger zones, judging it more effective than escorting vessels in a convoy formation. But this method means protecting foreign-linked vessels.

Due to the maritime policing provision of the Self-Defense Forces Law, the MSDF is only allowed to protect Japan-linked vessels. Therefore, Japan cannot adopt this method.

On Friday, a MSDF destroyer helped a Singapore-registered tanker that sought assistance fending off a suspicious boat that was approaching by shining a searchlight on it and issuing a warning by loudspeaker. The assistance offered was made based on the Mariners Law, which stipulates that seamen should make all necessary efforts to help fellow seamen whose lives are in danger. But the use of weapons is limited to self-defense under the law.


Bill must be passed

At all events, it is indispensable to have the Diet pass the antipiracy legislation, which will enable MSDF destroyers to protect foreign-registered vessels, facilitating effective antipiracy activities.

The Democratic Party of Japan should not cling tenaciously to the unrealistic principle that holds that the Japan Coast Guard, not the MSDF, should perform antipiracy activities. We hope the DPJ will cooperate with the early passage of the antipiracy bill so pressing threats can be dealt with swiftly.

It is also important to support maritime safety authorities in neighboring countries, such as Yemen, Oman and Djibouti, by providing patrol vessels.

The benefit of improving the capability of such authorities is shown by the situation in waters near the Malacca Straits in Southeast Asia, where the number of pirate attacks has tumbled in recent years.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 8, 2009)
(2009年4月8日01時37分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-04-08 11:43 | 英字新聞

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