The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 26, 2010)
Boost JCG ability to guard territorial waters
海上保安庁 領海警備の体制強化を急げ(11月25日付・読売社説)

The Sept. 7 collisions between a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels in Japanese waters off the Senkaku Islands is a reminder of the importance of protecting this nation's waters. The ability of the JCG to guard this nation's territorial waters needs to be steadily reinforced.

Since the collisions, Beijing has frequently sent fishery patrol vessels to waters near the islands. Last weekend, China again made its presence known by having two patrol vessels sail close to the area. One vessel was a helicopter-equipped, state-of-the-art fishery patrol boat armed with machine guns.

China is trying to boost its control over disputed waters in the South China Sea by dispatching armed fishery patrol boats under the pretext of protecting its fishing vessels. Beijing is possibly taking similar action in the East China Sea, too. Galvanizing the JCG's ability to patrol and guard Japan's waters is an urgent task.

Vessels too old

JCG has eight patrol ships and six smaller patrol boats based at the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, which exercises control over waters near the islands. But some are showing their age and have reached the end of their useful life. Their hulls have corroded and they are too slow to perform their duties properly, among other shortcomings.

The JCG's activities will be seriously affected if the vessels remain in less-than-shipshape condition.

The JCG plans to replace 10 large patrol vessels that are particularly timeworn among the 87 vessels that have reached the end of their useful life. However, replacing these ships will take at least six years. We think this is too long. The JCG should build these new vessels faster.

There also are problems in the communications systems between ships, airplanes and helicopters.

The JCG has not installed digital radio equipment that sends extremely secure transmission on all its vessels and aircraft. Some are still equipped only with analog radios, whose communications can reportedly be monitored by radios available on the market.

As things stand, JCG vessels and aircraft cannot share any important information with vessels of the Maritime Self-Defense Force. These communication systems must be upgraded as soon as possible.

Legal framework needed

As Pyongyang's artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, earlier this week showed, Japan must remain on guard against North Korea.

However, shortcomings in domestic laws that surfaced following two incidents involving North Korean spy ships about a decade ago remain uncorrected. Japan had to deal with the spy ships by invoking the Fisheries Law and other laws, as there was no legislation designed specifically to deal with violations of territorial waters.

A suprapartisan group of lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party are advocating the Territorial Sea Law be revised to make violating Japan's territorial waters an offense.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku indicated at a press conference he wants necessary domestic legal framework enacted more quickly. We think this is quite reasonable. The ruling and opposition parties should cooperate to get the relevant laws put in place.

Needless to say, it is also necessary to review the slipshod information management system that was exposed by a JCG officer's recent leaking of video footage showing the Chinese trawler ramming into the JCG vessels.

Fingers have been pointed at the JCG chain of command since the officer leaked the video without permission. The JCG must do more to ensure its officers maintain discipline.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 25, 2010)
(2010年11月25日01時15分  読売新聞)