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Politics

Japan's new ocean policy shifts emphasis to defense and security

Switch from maritime resources reflects growing threats from North Korea, China

TOKYO -- The Japanese government finalized its basic plan on ocean policy for fiscal 2018 through 2022 at a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Unlike previous plans, which prioritized resource development, the new plan particularly emphasizes security, including regional security and remote island defense. The direction responds to the growing threats of missile and nuclear weapons activities by North Korea, as well as China's aggressive maritime expansion.

The new policy is the latest iteration of the plan, which the government began formulating in 2008. It is reviewed every five years.

Ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is chairman of the maritime policy coordinating committee, said, "Amid intensifying tensions in ocean circumstances, the government should work as a team to protect our maritime territories and rights, as well as maintain and develop openness and the stability of the oceans."

The ocean policy plan details measures to be taken under the government's leadership. The plan specifically calls for enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness activities, including monitoring suspicious vessels and sharing information with other countries.

Under the plan, the government will develop a platform to allow it to swiftly communicate information with vessels cruising in waters near Japan, and prepare for possible missile launches by North Korea.

The capabilities of vessels, aircraft and radar of the Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard will be steadily enhanced. The government plans to beef up monitoring of unidentified vessels by using the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's satellites and by sharing information with U.S. forces and other organizations. It will also build a system to consolidate maritime information gathered by the SDF and the coast guard.

The plan also stipulates emergency security systems near the Senkaku Islands, Okinawa Prefecture, as part of its efforts to protect remote islands. The plan includes policies concerning the Arctic for the first time to make it easier for Japanese companies to utilize the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic Ocean north of Russia.

In accordance with the plan, the government will formulate specific actions to strengthen Maritime Domain Awareness.

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