Japan’s Ocean Development Strategy to Be Strengthened with Eye on China

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
An aerial view of Minami-Torishima Island

The government has begun formulating policy goals for maritime development to be realized at an early date, and decided that its Headquarters for Ocean Policy will compile a “priority strategy for ocean development,” government sources have said.

The headquarters, helmed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, is expected to compile the strategy to strengthen Japan’s martime policy as early as end of the year, with development of autonomous underwater vehicles to be included in its set of goals.

To secure the necessary financial resources, the government is considering the creation of a strategic fund for maritime development.

Japan’s Basic Plan on Ocean Policy lays out the country’s comprehensive maritime policy. The plan was first formulated in 2008. The government intends to select items listed in the basic plan and designate them in the priority strategy as goals to be realized in phases at an early date.

For the first phase, the government is coordinating to include the following items in the priority strategy: development and utilization of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), development of and in the waters around Minami-Torishima Island of Tokyo’s Ogasawara Islands, and research and system design for the development of offshore wind power generation in the nation’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

AUVs are also called underwater drones. They can operate without cables tying them to a ship, allowing them to be used for such work as seafloor topography exploration and maintenance and inspection of offshore wind power farms across wide stretches of sea.

In the seafloor off Minami-Torishima Island, mud rich in rare-earth elements that are indispensable for producing electronics has been confirmed, and the government has been trying to commercialize the mining of rare earths.

As for offshore wind power farms, the government intends to promote floating platforms, instead of fixed-bottom technology.

The government will secure financing for these projects from the strategic fund being considered. It has already started designing the fund.

The government’s move to formulate the priority strategy is largely due to China, which has been growing as a maritime power. Beijing has shown increased interest in securing maritime natural resources, repeatedly sending its vessels into Japan’s EEZ. Tokyo concluded it needs to reorganize its budgets to protect the nation’s maritime interests.