Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

Japanese Anti-Piracy Initiatives in Southeast Asia: Policy Formulation and the Coastal State Responses

Academic journal article Contemporary Southeast Asia

Japanese Anti-Piracy Initiatives in Southeast Asia: Policy Formulation and the Coastal State Responses

Article excerpt

Introduction

Maritime piracy concerns many nations, but it particularly alarms Japan, a state vitally dependent on the flow of resources through the pirate-infested waters of Southeast Asia. Although Japan possesses highly capable maritime forces, its constitution restricts the Self Defence Forces (SDF) from operating as a traditional military. Moreover, the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), not part of the SDF, is also restrained by antimilitarist prohibitions. However, since the mid-1990s concern over the piracy threat has triggered changes in Japan's outlook and led it to initiate significant efforts aimed at leading a regional effort to cooperatively eradicate piracy in Southeast Asia. Japan's initiatives have met with mixed success. The most radical ideas, proposals which envisioned standing ocean-peacekeeping fleets conducting multinational patrols in both territorial and international waters, made very little progress. However, at a bilateral level, Japanese initiatives have been quite successful. For example, the JCG has conducted joint training exercises with six Southeast Asian states and Japanese aid programmes have trained and equipped forces in all of the coastal states.

Focusing on the political, law enforcement, and military programmes adopted by states, this article examines the formulation of Japan's anti-piracy initiatives and the responses of Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia to those initiatives. The first section describes the nature of Southeast Asian maritime piracy and its significance to Japan. The second section examines the factors which caused Japan to implement its anti-piracy initiatives and the evolution of those policies from inception to March 2004. The third section explains responses to the Japanese proposals by the states bordering the Strait of Malacca.

The article's analysis draws upon the security framework provided by the Copenhagen School as represented by Barry Buzan and Ole Waever. (1) The Copenhagen School understands that security is a socially constructed concept and that discourse is a key element in the construction and identification of security issues. Based on the discourse which surrounds it, a public policy issue can be classified as non-politicized, politicized, or securitized. A non-politicized issue is one which is excluded from the policy debate and ignored by policy. A politicized issue is identified as a matter of public importance, brought into the policy discourse, and requires the commitment of public resources. A securitized issue is identified as a potential threat to the continued existence of the state. Once securitized, issues are perceived to be of such immediate importance that they are elevated above the ordinary norms of the political debate and the state acquires special rights to adopt extraordinary measures in order to protect itself.

Although the security framework is employed as a key conceptual tool in this article, the analysis looks at more than just discourse. instead, it adopts an approach which is both more rational and more objective than that of the constructivist Copenhagen School. It assumes that security threats can be intrinsically real, but that the discourse surrounding and the perceptions regarding threats are key factors in determining the policy priority and resources devoted to addressing them. Non-politicized threats do not warrant a response, whereas securitized threats warrant extraordinary responses. Therefore the article also examines the various interests, security and otherwise, which have motivated policymakers in regional states to categorize the threat posed by maritime piracy differently. Where Japan and Singapore have both securitized maritime piracy, the issue has been only politicized by Malaysia and remains essentially non-politicized in Indonesia. In examining the anti-piracy cooperation between Japan and its potential partners, the analysis reveals that while the political and security priority state policymakers have placed on fighting piracy is a key factor determining the extent of cooperation, additional variables must also be taken into account. …

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