Japan to write Indo-Pacific strategy into ocean plan

Tokyo to emphasize free access to sea lanes

A Japanese coast guard vessel (front) giving chase to a Chinese ship. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – An Indo-Pacific strategy to keep sea lanes open and protect claims to offshore islands will feature in an ocean policy document to be presented by the government of Japan next spring, reports said Thursday.

The focus on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Ocean Strategy” emphasizes Japan’s wish to provide a counterweight to China, Japanese commentators said.

After Japan passed a “Basic Law of the Oceans” in 2007, its government started drawing up plans for basic ocean-related policies the following year, with an update likely once every five years, the Chinese-language China Times reported.

The additions planned for next year would include references to the Indo-Pacific strategy and to the safety of sea lanes reaching from Japan through Southeast Asia all the way to East Africa, reports said.

Tokyo was also likely to continue strengthening the capabilities of its coast guard in the light of frequent appearances by Chinese naval vessels in waters nearby.

The new document was also likely to include references to the North Pole, where Japan wants to play a major role in environmental research and development of resources, according to reports.

Chinese media also pointed out that Japan was likely to try and acquire medium-range missiles with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers, which would allow it to cover the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, which it calls Senkaku, more effectively. Both China and Taiwan claim sovereignty over the uninhabited Japanese-controlled archipelago.