Japan's New National Border Strategy and Maritime Security

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Journal of Borderlands Studies | 26.3 - 2011

Japan’s New National Border Strategy and Maritime Security

Yoshihiko Yamada∗


This paper targets the transformation of sea security issues for Japan, which is obliged to consider itself a seafaring country in order to fulfil its responsibility in a global society where the US guarantees freedom of navigation over the high seas. I introduce Japan’s remote border islands in the introduction and survey the characteristics of Japan’s sea security framework in the following section. After introducing Japan’s current legal arrangements on ocean policy, I highlight Japan’s maritime interests and evolving strategies. My argument here is not necessarily analytical; rather, I aim to enumerate Japan’s border challenges and to share basic knowledge about Japan’s sea border works for future empirical and comparative studies. Given Japan’s energy and transportation dependence on sea routes, securing not only the sea border but also the far seas is critical for Japan’s stability and management. In short, the improvement of the coast guard system and anti-piracy operations deployed far from Japan (particularly in the Straits of Malacca and the sea area off the coast of Somalia) matter to Japan.


Surrounded by seas, the Japanese have always lived in tandem with the sea. Just as today’s society has undergone significant changes, including globalization and increased dependence on advanced information technology, so too has Japan’s concept of security changed. In particular, people have focused on sea and ocean security as their attention turns to promising undersea resources, aquatic food resources, and maritime trade. To see the importance of maritime security for Japan, an overview of Japan’s sea border is first illustrated below. According to a survey requested by Allied Forces after World War II and conducted by the Japan Coast Guard’s Hydrographic Department, Japan numbered 1,025 islands, excluding islands in...