First US-Japan Sea Power Dialogue

Washington, D.C., United States

–New Maritime Collaboration for the 21st Century: A view from the private sector–

1. Greetings

It is an honor to be with you today at the 1st US-Japan Sea Power Dialogue. I extend my thanks to everyone at the Center for a New American Security, the administration office and our American and Japanese friends for making this symposium possible.

In the middle of the 20th century, the world’s population stood at 2.5 billion. Since then, it has grown rapidly to 6.5 billion today. That number is expected to exceed 10 billion around 2050. The world’s economy has also grown accordingly.

However, the development and use of land resources are approaching their limits. We will have to turn increasingly to the sea, which covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, for the water, food and the resources required to support our growing population and economic activity. It is no exaggeration to say that human existence is reliant upon the sea.

However, the rapid population growth and economic development are placing a great burden on the seas. It is apparent that there is a limit to an ocean’s ability to rejuvenate itself. The infinite sea is turning into a finite sea.

Interest in the problems of the oceans is very low, except among specialists. This is partly because humans have a history of land-based development. However, various marine problems are becoming apparent, and we ignore the oceans at our peril.

I believe it is important to think about the oceans from the vantage point of the oceans themselves. Under the circumstances, this is a timely and meaningful symposium, and I expect many new possibilities in ocean development to emerge from these discussions.

2. Present state of the world’s oceans

The latter half of the 20th century was a period of significant reform of the maritime order. Before that time, there was the notion that the sea did not belong to anyone.

After the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, a system to manage the world’s oceans through international cooperation was formed, and continues to this day. This marked a change from the days when maritime nations with powerful navies dominated the seas, influenced by the views of Alfred Mahan.

UNCLOS removed the historical freedom of the seas by granting Exclusive Economic Zones to every coastal nation. These EEZs extended sovereignty 200 nautical miles off the nation’s coast – and up to 350 nautical miles in the case of states with continental shelves. As a result, conflicts and competition between littoral states over jurisdiction of zones and marine rights and interests are growing.

The jurisdiction of the EEZs comes with both rights and obligations to control the seas. However, some littoral states lack both tangible assets – infrastructure – and intangible assets – such as human capacity building and laws.

Consequently, the safety of the seas is threatened by traditional acts of piracy, terrorism, people trafficking and smuggling. All exploit gaps between territorial waters and sovereignty laws. Examples of these threats are the frequent acts of piracy and terrorism in the Malacca-Singapore Strait, and in the waters off Somalia.

Ninety percent of international trade is by sea. Therefore, ensuring the navigational safety of international sea routes is vital for the world economy. We need to be aware of the threats we face. In addition to those I have just mentioned, these include conflicts over marine resources, disputes caused by globalization, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, large-scale natural calamities and environmental destruction.

3. The Malacca-Singapore Strait

Although the status of international affairs is changing dramatically under the new legal order, it is impossible for any one country to solve all maritime problems and secure maritime safety alone. National governments, international organizations, private sector organizations and non-governmental organizations must therefore collaborate to fight against diverse threats.

Bearing this in mind, I believe the time is right for the following concept, which I call “New sea power for the 21st century.” It is based on UNCLOS and globalization in marine affairs. Before I speak about this concept in detail, I would like to give you some useful background information. It concerns the activities I have been involved in – in a private-sector capacity – to secure the navigational safety of the Malacca-Singapore Strait.

The Malacca-Singapore Strait is the most congested area of sea in the world, with 94,000 vessels passing through each year. The strait is the lifeline not only of Asia, but also of the whole world. In recent years, as the economies of Asian countries boom, the number of their ships passing through the strait has risen dramatically, especially Chinese ships. Concerns have grown about the possibility of vessels passing through the strait with dangerous cargoes and also of major incidents at sea caused by shipping congestion. In addition, pirates threaten the safety of navigation.

A project is now under way to realize collaboration on navigational safety and environmental conservation in the Malacca-Singapore Strait. The project is based on UNCLOS, and mainly involves the three littoral states, that is, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. The International Maritime Organization is also involved. The project aims to establish a co-operative mechanism based on an Aids to Navigation Fund, and set up an international system in which interested parties such as user states and the shipping industry voluntarily participate and collaborate.

Since Hugo Grotius proposed the freedom of the seas in the 17th century, his idea has largely been respected. However, The Free Seas, as he called his book, are turning into finite seas because of economic expansion.

For instance, the costs borne by littoral states in relation to congested international straits such as the Malacca-Singapore Strait are constantly growing. This is because of the need to maintain and improve safety features such as aids to navigation and lighthouses, and to replace buoy tender vessels. However, most user states and the shipping industry, which directly benefit from passage through the Malacca-Singapore Strait, do not currently bear any of these costs. In the interests of fairness, the idea of securing cooperation from user states and the shipping industry merits close attention.

With the globalization of the economy, the quantity of cargo passing through the strait is increasing. In relation to the enormous volume of cargo and its economic value, the cost of maintenance and renewal of the navigational support infrastructure is tiny.

Therefore, I proposed that the shipping industry, which is a direct user of the strait, sets up a voluntary fund as part of its corporate social responsibility. This also means it would abandon the notion that shipping companies can use the seas for free. I announced that if the shipping industry set up an Aids to Navigation Fund, then The Nippon Foundation would provide aid equivalent to one third of the cost required to maintain and renew aids to navigation for the first five years after the establishment of the fund.

Through our efforts, major international shipping associations that most benefit from the Malacca-Singapore Strait announced their support for the Aids to Navigation Fund. In addition, oil-producing countries in the Middle East announced their cooperation, encouraged by our constructive proposal. We are also receiving increasing support from energy-related organizations, NGOs and others.

Ideally, the governments of the three littoral states of the Malacca-Singapore Strait and of user states such as Japan, South Korea and China, should take the initiative for a project like this. However, negotiations among them have made no progress over the last 10 years. Hence we are trying to assist matters from the standing of the private sector.

I believe the major reason why people are interested in the co-operative mechanism, and why a new international collaboration is about to be realized, is the following. It is because the shipping industry, which directly benefits from the strait, is seeking to participate out of a sense of corporate social responsibility.

In this process, The Nippon Foundation has acted as a pioneer advocate. We proposed a system in which not only littoral states and user states, but also the shipping industry and other parties can participate. Moreover, the shipping industry is a willing collaborator. We helped companies to see how participating in activities to secure the safety and preserve the environment of international straits such as the Malacca-Singapore Strait is part of their corporate social responsibility.

4. Proposal for “civil sea power”

I want to talk about what I call “civil sea power,” which is an important element of the new sea power for the 21st century.

The paradigm of the ocean changed from “freedom of the sea” to “governance of the sea” in the latter half of the 20th century because of changes in international affairs. This requires that states acquire the ability to solve maritime problems and to develop, utilize, conserve and manage marine resources.

Since marine problems are closely related to each other, this means being able to study them in a holistic way, formulate policies to deal with them, and have the will and ability to implement them based on economic, scientific and technical strengths. If we describe this as new sea power, then the traditional notion of sea power will be called into question in the 21st century.

Important to the sea power for the 21st century is not only the sea power of states but also civil sea power. Society will become increasingly dependent on the seas as people recognize the implications of an increase in world population for resources and the environment.

Governments are limited in the actions they can take to solve maritime problems. These are problems for human beings as a whole, and related to international affairs and concerned with a broad range of issues.

Governments, international organizations, the shipping industry, private sector enterprises and other interested parties should collaborate to solve these problems, just as they are going to do in regard to the Malacca-Singapore Strait. For such collaboration, the private sector will be able to demonstrate civil sea power by acting as the catalyst to get people moving and functioning as an advocate.

Mechanisms which utilize the strengths of the private sector may be useful to solve various difficult problems and to settle conflicts. Private-sector strengths include developing the human resources required to respond to policies and problems concerning the ocean, technical cooperation, and the ability to come up with new ideas.

5. International collaboration: Summary

Let’s look at the status of the U.S. and Japan. The Basic Act on Ocean Policy, was enacted in Japan last year, and Japan took its first step toward becoming a maritime state. The U.S. started focusing on the ocean from an early date, and has been working on maritime policy issues for some time.

It is my understanding that U.S. maritime policy has entered a new phase in the 21st century, and that constructive discussions are being held to ratify UNCLOS. Although ratification has been pending for a long time, there is no doubt that the U.S. is the biggest sea power in the world, based on its navy and connections with markets all over the world.

The U.S. is achieving significant results in the protection of the marine transport infrastructure – for example, through maritime intercept operations in the Indian Ocean, through the Proliferation Security Initiative, and through the Container Security Initiative. On the other hand, there is some opposition to U.S.-led plans. The reasons for this opposition are probably worries caused by the fact that the operations are mainly government-led, backed up by massive military power, and do not involve international collaboration or private-sector participation.

In the maritime world, we increasingly hear words such as “fight” and “conflict,” instead of “hope,” “peace” and “cooperation.” We talk of the fight against piracy and terrorism at sea, the conflict over maritime resource development and use of sea areas, and the fight against the pollution of the seas. In reality, none of these problems can be solved by fighting, but through persistent and self-sacrificing collaboration for the benefit of the world as a whole, transcending the sovereignty of governments.

I believe it is important for the U.S. and Japan to take a broad approach to dealing with maritime problems, and should not limit themselves to military-type or government-level solutions. The seas cannot be administered by one country, but only through international collaboration.

In the 21st century, for both the U.S. and Japan, the ocean will come to be regarded as an increasingly important element in their identity. It is my wish that our two countries, as genuine maritime states, will take the initiative in international collaboration to protect the oceans, to make the most of the strengths of the private sector, and to deal with diverse maritime challenges by utilizing the capabilities of governments in conjunction with those of civil sea power.