Japan's legislature reportedly is considering laws to allow direct involvement by Japanese vessels in anti-piracy patrols and measures against smugglers and illegal immigrants. The prime area for such work would be Southeast Asia, where pirate attacks have increased greatly in recent years.
A formal anti-piracy pact with the ten-member Association of Southeast Asia Nations would allow Japanese maritime authorities to join international patrols in piracy-prone waters, the Sankei Shimbun said. The report could not be immediately confirmed.Asean comprises Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Brunei and Cambodia.
The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea allows any country's maritime authorities to attack pirates on open water. Japan's current laws do not permit it to control piracy against non-Japanese vessels.
Japan has instead provided indirect support by hosting tactical meetings in the region and training visiting personnel at its Coast Guard Academy.
Shipowners, spearheaded by the Japanese, are demanding tougher and more coordinated action against hijackers. At a meeting in November, officials and industry experts from 13 Asia-Pacific territories urged 'offensive actions,' arguing that most effort so far has been in response to attacks.
The International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center recorded 294 attacks or attempts in the first nine months of last year, 114 more than in the corresponding 1999 period. Of those, 123 occurred in waters around Indonesia and the Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest and most congested waterways.
P.T. Bangsberg can be reached at 011-632-526-2432 or firstname.lastname@example.org.