Japan to set sail for full-scale peace diplomacy to the Middle East (3)
NPO Salaam Association Chairman Ikuzo Kobayashi
From the Autumn Issue of the electronic “Salaam Quarterly Bulletin”, No.34, August 2020
General purpose escort vessel “Murasame” type 4th ship, DD escort vessel “Kirisame”
The escort vessel “Takanami,” which successfully completed a five-month mission to ensure the safety of Japanese-affiliated vessels in the Middle East Sea Lane, based on the “Survey and Research” of the Ministry of Defense Establishment Law, returned to the JMSDF Yokosuka Base on July 1. I want to celebrate the safe return of the vessel to the port. Since mid-June, the escort vessel “Kirisame” has been operating in the North Arabian Sea, and the second unit’s patrol aircraft have also been on duty.
Twenty years into the 21st century, although the crisis of a World War is distant, potential conflicts in the Middle East can flare up like explosives warehouse at any moment which need to be watched out constantly. In East Asia, the situation of the Korean Peninsula is reminiscent of the confusion right after the Second World War and Xi Jinping regime in China in pursuit of the Asia hegemony is attempting to change status quo by force in the East China Sea, the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Senkaku Islands through the hard-line measures to break through the first island chain.
Securing security in the sea lane has become an urgent issue for security in the free and open Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Malacca Strait, South China Sea, East China Sea, and South Pacific. The peace and security of the Middle East and that of Japan are closely connected through the sea lane in the era of the international community sharing the same destiny.
Crude oil tanker “TAKASUZU” that has barely avoided sinking
In April 2004, NYK’s super tanker “Takasuzu” was moored at an oil shipping terminal off the coast of Basra in Iraq situated deep inside the Persian Gulf. Norfolk, a British vessel dispatched to the Persian Gulf, discovered three small high-speed boats approaching the terminal and engaged in a shootout. One of the high-speed boats self-destructed in explosion several hundred meters before “Takasuzu”. The three high-speed boats were attempted a terrorist attack on the tanker at the terminal. The hull of “Takasuzu” was scooped with bullets and its iron doors were blown away, but it escaped the fate of sinking by the suicide bombing.
The location of attack on TAKASUZU and the NYK super tanker (Sankei Shimbun on September 27, 2007)
A few days later Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement. Zarqawi, a Jordanian who was hiding in Iraq since 2002, is a man who pledges loyalty to Al-Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden and was the mastermind of anti-American terrorism in Iraq. He was an extremely dangerous person who terrorized everyone who supports the “war on terror” declared by the United States.
Zarqawi died in US military airstrike in June 2006.
At that time, Japan was unable to deploy a JMSDF ship in the “battle zone” in the ocean. Japan instead dispatched a supply ship to the Indian Ocean to refuel the multinational forces. Therefore, the protection of tankers was dependent on other countries. Even at the time of the terrorist attack, the ship was protected by the British vessel Norfolk, which had been dispatched as a multinational force. But this al-Qaeda suicide bombing killed two US Marines and a Coast Guard member. Japan should never forget that the Japanese economy was supported through the sacrifice of the US-UK-led multinational forces.
Defense Minister Taro Kono
Around 2005 and afterword, along with the attack on crude oil tankers, piracy on navigating vessels by pirates continued off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. The annual traffic volume of Japanese-affiliated vessels in the same ocean area accounted for approximately 10% of the total, but the escorting of vessels was left to foreign countries. Naturally, countermeasures against piracy were needed.
In January 2009, the government launched the Anti-Piracy Project Team, ordered a maritime security action in accordance with Article 82 of the Self-Defense Forces Act, and based on this, and decided to dispatch an escort vessel. The anti-piracy law was enacted on June 19.
Defense Minister Taro Kono introduces the background of anti-piracy law on his website.
（official website of Taro Kono, member of the House of Representatives）
Arab Spring, which started in 2011
2001 was the year when the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in Japan, and the Fukushima nuclear accident caused by the tsunami is still fresh in our memory.
On the other hand, a suicide by fire in Tunisia triggered an Islamic mass movement aiming to overthrow the long-term dictatorship of Arab and Islamic countries in the Middle East and the movement spread like wildfire. Tunisia’s Ben Ali administration was overthrown, Egyptian Mubarak regime collapsed, and in 2012, Islamic extremist President Morsi was elected. In Libya, Colonel Gaddafi was shot to death by dissidents and the country fell into a civil war.
After the 2003 Iraq War, terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists intensified and anti-government terrorists expanded their influence in Iraq where reconstruction efforts appeared in progress. The anti-government demonstration spilled over to Syria and spread all over the country. The Assad administration responded with relentless military repression, and the country was mired in a state of civil war by 2012.
The series of popular movements was called the Arab Spring, and seemed to contain elements expected as a movement that seeks Islamic democracy. But the excessive anti-American sentiment of Arab and Republic nations distorted sound political reform. Those movements were eventually led by radical Islamic fundamentalism, resulting in the rise of ISIS or Islamic State. On the other hand, the six pro-American Persian Gulf countries which maintained moderate Islamism, did not fall into the state of civil war and their governments were not overthrown by Islamic extremists.
Change in Japan’s energy policy
(Source) Prepared by Sustainable Japan on April 16, 2020, based on “Energy White Paper 2019” published by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident caused by the tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake resulted in a major loss of base power generated by the nuclear power plant.
Take a look at the graph above titled “Proportion of Supply of Energy and Power Generation in Japan”. The ratio of nuclear power generation to the total power generation in the Fiscal Year 2010 just prior to the Fukushima nuclear accident was 30.8%. In 2012, the ratio fell to a few percent at once. There is a limit to how much electricity needed for daily life, industry, and the economy can be saved, and the amount of power generation cannot be reduced. It was the thermal power generation using LNG (natural gas) and coal that replaced the lost power supply from the nuclear power generation.
The collapse of the myth of the nuclear power gave rise to the allergic reaction to the nuclear power, and extreme opinion which advocated to totally eliminate the nuclear power generation. However, as a result of the House of Representatives general election held at the end of 2012, the people chose the Liberal Democratic Party and the second Abe Cabinet was born. The LDP’s campaign pledge on the nuclear power issue was the best mix energy policy. Roughly speaking, the LDP pledged to determine the numerical target of the percentage of the nuclear power in total power supply in the next 10 years (from 2013), taking into consideration the development of science and technology in nuclear power generation.
Up until then, nuclear power generation has served as an alternative clean energy source for CO2 reduction by replacing oil-burning thermal power generation. Moreover, nuclear power, which generates far more energy than the energy obtained by burning fossil fuels, was regarded as the largest energy source for Japan with scarce fuel resources. Even now, there is no need to change that. The challenge lies in how safety issue can be overcome by nuclear science and technology. In other words, while improving the safety of nuclear power generation up to now, the challenge is to mobilize nation-wide efforts to tackle a safe nuclear power generation including the development of the thorium power plant.
Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Middle East – diplomacy for proactive contribution to peac
Meeting with Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud of Saudi Arabia on April 30, 2013 (Photo provided by the Cabinet Public Relations Office)
In 2013 Prime Minister Abe visited the Middle East twice. He visited Saudi Arabia, on April 30-May 1, United Arab Emirates on May 1-2, Turkey on May 2-3, Bahrain on August 24-25, Kuwait on August 26, Djibouti on August 27, and Qatar on August 28.
The Arab Spring has spread to the Gulf countries. If it is perceived that Japan has come to seek only economic national interests, anti-Japanese sentiment by Islamic extremists may be channeled into anti-government movement in those countries to a different degree in each country. In the 1990s, Japan was targeted for criticism as “Japanese foreign policy begging for oil”. Japan has come to be appreciated by the Middle East countries subsequently for 10 years of PKO activities, reconstruction of Iraq, offshore refueling activities in the Indian Ocean, and international contributions such as combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea in the 2000s.
Prime Minister Abe met with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah on August 26, 2013.
Prime Minister Abe advocated proactive contribution for peace in the diplomacy. He declared that he would strengthen the relationship with the Gulf countries toward a “comprehensive partnership for stability and prosperity” by visiting the Gulf countries in the Middle East. He initiated and promoted cooperation through technologies for agricultural products and medical devices, technical cooperation in the field of nuclear power, political and security cooperation, dialogue between foreign policy and defense officials, and human exchanges in education and culture as a way to create connections that transcend the framework centered on energy.
Needless to say, the first goal of his diplomacy was “stable supply of oil and gas.” However, as explained roughly above, the Middle Eastern Arab countries were in the midst of the Arab Spring turmoil, and it was unpredictable as to how the Arab Spring was going to change the political maps of the Arab and Islamic countries. His visits were timely and meaningful in deepening ties with the Gulf countries as proactive contribution for peace in such a situation in the Middle East.
Intensifying Islamic extremism and Japanese independent Middle East diplomacy
The encirclement against the Islamic State was formed by the Coalition of the Willing and Gulf countries on September 24, 2014, Sankei Shimbun article;
Number of participants from each country in the Syrian Civil War” November 4, 2014, Yomiuri Shimbun article.
The Arab Spring transformed the Arab-Islamic region into an arena of confrontation between moderate Islam force and Islamic extremist force. In Tunisia, the moderate Islamic government somehow maintained its power, and in Egypt, President Sissi representing moderate Islam emerged after the radical Islamic government led by President Morsi which ruled for a year after the collapse of the long-term Mubarak dictatorship. Libya fell into a civil war after Colonel Gaddafi’s death, and the civil war is still ongoing. Yemen suffered a three-way civil war among Saudi-affiliated moderate Sunnis, Iran-affiliated extremists and Sunni Islamic extremists. In such a situation in the Middle East, ISIS or the Islamic State emerged and came to control over vast territories in Iraq and Syria.
Approximately for three years from the Declaration of the Islamic State on June 29, 2014 until its collapse, the world went through the confrontation between the Islamic State and America-led coalition of the willing composed of 60 countries.
Japan joined the Coalition of the Willing in the fight against terrorism. The Islamic State came to know Japan’s action and announced that they would carry out terrorist attacks on the Japanese diplomatic corps.
Japan has clarified its stance not to negotiate with terrorists or to give in to terrorism after 9/11 terrorist incident.
Prime Minister Abe has adopted the basic diplomatic principle that “Japan accepts and supports any individual, group, or nation who can share the values of freedom and democracy.”
I want to clearly state that the values of freedom and democracy that are common to Islamic countries who believe in Allah as the only God and Japan who look up to heaven are “realization of democratic nation and world of peace based on not only physical, material and economic but also religious, spiritual and ideological freedom and equality.” Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the values of democracy based on freedom and equality are nurtured in an environment of self-reliance, independence, and mutual respect, and not in an environment of oppression, coercion and violence dominated by dogmatic and exclusive emotion manifested by Islamic extremists.
Proactive contribution for peace
Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, President of the Philippines
Japan’s United Nations PKO activities have gained high evaluation from other countries. In addition, Japan has understood the United States’ ‘fight against terrorism’ policy since the 9/11 terrorist incident and has shown its support through actions to the extent possible. Based on such a foundation, Japan was able to announce its will to contribute to world peace, stability and prosperity under the policy of “proactive contribution for peace”.
Prime Minister Abe visited more than 60 countries and regions and sought to strengthen security cooperation, and appealed for the “rule of law”, human security and realization of a society in which women shine, and utilization of ODA.
On June 3, 2016, President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines delivered a speech at the Japanese Diet, saying, “Japan’s diplomacy of active contribution for peace consistently contributed to recovery of my country. Japan stood on the frontline of freedom in the tense Philippine waters as a strategic partner and healed the painful and bitter past of confrontation during the previous World War.” He said, “The Japanese battleship “Ise” once sailed in the Philippine waters during the (Leyte) sea battle. During the typhoon of the year 2014, the escort vessel with the same name “Ise” delivered relief, compassion, and solidarity to the victims of the disaster.”
Peace and Security Legislation
On September 19, 2015, a security-related bill (security legislation) was voted and passed at the House of Councilors plenary session amid the fierce battle between the ruling and opposition parties.
On September 19, 2015, a security-related bill (security legislation) was passed. The enactment of this security legislation represented a comprehensive package to address security challenges in Japan’s own defense since the Abe Cabinet and administration were launched in December 2012. Those challenges include collective self-defense rights that match the international situation, Japan’s defense plan, review of the three principles of weapons export, etc., as well as dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces for “escort duty”, “joint defense of camps”, and preparations (information collection, education and training) enabling those activities in international peace operations.
International peace cooperation activities by the Self-Defense Forces have been carried out all over the world including neighboring Asian countries, Middle East countries, and Africa. The security legislation entered into force on March 29, 2016 as a legal system that facilitates international peace cooperation by the Self-Defense Forces, including not only participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operations but also support for other countries’ armed forces working for the peace of the international community.
Peace in the Middle East and Japan which shares the same destiny
Ensuring safety of vessels in the sea lanes is an urgent issue for the security of the free and open Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Malacca Strait, South China Sea, East China Sea, and South Pacific.
In the past, Japan has conducted refueling support activities in the Indian Ocean for the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Pakistan, and New Zealand, which had been engaged in the interdiction operations to prevent maritime terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Today, ten years later, the security of India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia has been significantly strengthened as “security of free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
Anti-piracy actions of the Self-Defense Forces off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden (Prime Minister’s Office website)
Japan Coast Guard patrol boat “Echigo” and helicopter participating in joint training off Chennai, southern India (January 17, 2020 Sekai Nippo article)
Anti-piracy operations in the sea lanes off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea have been ongoing for over a decade.
On January 11-15, 2020, Prime Minister Abe visited UAE and Oman. The purpose of the visit was to secure a supply point for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force escort vessels, dispatch of which to the Middle East was decided by the last year’s Cabinet decision. This is the first time that the Maritime Self-Defense Force is dispatched to the northern Arabian Sea, and Japan dispatched the force to the vicinity of the Straits of Hormuz, which is related to Iran, Oman, and the UAE under the pretense of “Survey and Research” stipulated in the Self-Defense Forces Law, and decided not to join the Coalition of the Willing led by the United States. It was diplomatic tactics that do not undermine the trust in the Japan-US alliance and at the same time do not damage the historical friendship between Japan and Iran.
Japan could obtain a commitment from Prince Mohammed of Abu Dhabi emirate of UAE “not to spare efforts to provide concrete support as a coastal country” and his approval to use Fujairah Port as a supply point. Japan successfully coordinated with Oman, which has a friendly relationship with Iran, to use Salalah Port as a supply point.
Supply station for JMSDF escort vessel: Fujairah Port in UAE and Salalah Port in Oman on the map. Dark blue part is the sea area for operations (Sekai Nippo article on January 17, 2020)
A crude oil super tanker that exceeds the height of the Tokyo Tower (333 meters high) travels between the Middle East and Japan in about 40 days. About 10% of the vessels sailing in the Arabian Sea are Japan-affiliated vessels. If the safety of vessels in the sea lanes must be protected as “freedom of navigation in the high seas”, Japan should play a more active role in this “freedom of navigation” operation than any other country.
And I want to see the relations with the Middle East and the Gulf countries to become fruitful as a comprehensive partner relationship that goes beyond the connection centered on energy. I cannot stop hoping that the dispatch of the JMSDF will lead to the promotion of peace in the Middle East.