Opening Speech by Mr. Tetsuma Esaki, Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs
Regional Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships

April 27, 2000

Prime Minister Mori,
Mr. Shogo Arai, Director-General of the Maritime Safety Agency
Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted that the Heads of Coast Guard Agencies and other persons concerned from Asian countries and areas have gathered here today for the first Regional Conference on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships. I wish to extend a very warm welcome to all delegates from Asian countries and areas.

As Prime Minister Mori has mentioned, the then Prime Minister Obuchi proposed this conference at the Japan-ASEAN Summit held in Manila last November, in response to the recommendations submitted by the Mission for Revitalization of Asian Economy, which was dispatched last fall. All the ASEAN countries kindly gave support to that proposal. Shortly before Mr. Obuchi made the proposal, the Alondra Rainbow incident occurred. The ship and its cargo were forcibly taken, and the crew was set adrift under torturous conditions. Thanks to intense investigations and rescue efforts by the countries concerned, the entire crew was rescued without mishap. I would like once again to express my sincere gratitude for the cooperation that was shown by the countries involved.

The piracy problem that has been occurring frequently in Asia in recent years not only poses a threat to the transportation routes of Japan, a trading nation. It could also have a major impact on the social stability and economic prosperity of the entire region. In view of this, I believe that this conference represents an encouraging first step towards the full-scale implementation of anti-piracy measures in Asia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need to recognize fully that the problem of piracy must not be viewed solely as a matter of maritime law enforcement, but as part of our efforts to counter transnational organized crime that emerge against the backdrop of various social and economic problems. It is essential to adopt a comprehensive approach based on this understanding when pursuing regional cooperation on measures to combat piracy.

Responsible as I am for Japan's foreign policy, I wish to propose to study comprehensive measures based on the following four pivotal points.

First, social factors such as poverty and high unemployment rate caused by, among other things, the impact of the currency and economic crises that broke out in the summer of 1997 is said to lie in the background of maritime armed robberies in Asia. Japan has been giving maximum assistance to countries afflicted by the Asian economic crisis and will continue to give as much assistance as possible for Asian development, including the implementation of measures to fight poverty. At the same time, we wish to have closer discussions with coastal states on what cooperation Japan can extend to assist the anti-piracy measures those countries are implementing.

Second, an overwhelmingly large number of maritime armed robberies in Asia tend to occur in the territorial seas and the archipelagic waters rather than on the high seas. What is also notable is that many of these incidents are complex and involve a number of countries. It is also pointed out that international criminal syndicates are behind some of these piracy incidents. To deal with this kind of international crime, it is necessary to step up broad-based multinational efforts to combat transnational organized crime, including through cooperation and coordination among all institutions concerned, such as Coast Guard Agencies and Police Agencies on land. For its part, Japan wishes to strengthen its cooperation with those efforts.

Third, it is important that there be an international structure to ensure that criminals perpetrating unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation not evade criminal proceedings. From this perspective, I wish to call upon all countries represented here today that have not yet concluded the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation to conclude that convention.

Fourth, it is extremely important that, at forums such as the ASEAN + 3 (Japan, China and Korea) meetings at the Heads-of-State/Government and Foreign-Ministers level and ASEAN Post Ministerial Conferences (PMC), the governments of the countries concerned appeal the need to cooperate on anti-piracy efforts as their strong will if they are to maintain the momentum of these efforts at the regional level. It will be very meaningful indeed, if agreement on concrete forms of cooperation can be reached in the above-mentioned forums. In addition, out of recognition that piracy is a threat to regional stability and prosperity, the problem is already being addressed in the ARF. It is also necessary to strengthen international efforts against piracy from the standpoint of human security more generally. Japan is committed to active participation in this debate.

The fostering of international cooperation on the basis of these four pivotal points will, I believe, mark the first step towards making piracy-free, peaceful, and prosperous sea a reality, and I am convinced sure that this conference will constitute that first step.

Thank you.

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