Garwin on Strategic Security Challenges to the US

There are at least four major “strategic security challenges” that could place the United States at risk within the next decade, physicist Richard L. Garwin told the National Academy of Sciences earlier this month.

“The greatest threat, based on expected value of damage, is cyberattack,” he said. Other challenges arise from the actions of North Korea and Iran, due to their pursuit or acquisition of nuclear weapons and/or missiles. The remaining threat is due to the potential instability associated with the existing U.S. nuclear weapon arsenal.

These four could be ordered, he said, by the relative difficulty of reducing the threat, from “easiest” to hardest: “the Iranian nuclear program; North Korea; the U.S. nuclear weapon capability and its evolution; and, finally, most importantly and probably most difficult of solution, the cyber threat to the United States.”

In his remarks, Garwin characterized each of the challenges and discussed possible steps that could be taken to mitigate the hazards involved. See Strategic Security Challenges for 2017 and Beyond, May 1, 2017.

Among many other things, Dr. Garwin is a former board member of the Federation of American Scientists. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama last November. He was the subject of a biography published earlier this year called True Genius by Joel Shurkin. Many of his publications are archived on the FAS website.

Most of the threats identified by Garwin — other than the one posed by the U.S. nuclear weapon arsenal — were also discussed in the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community that was presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 11.

Neither Garwin nor the US Intelligence Community considered the possibility that the US Government could ever be threatened from within. But that is what is now happening, former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper told CNN on May 14.

“I think […] our institutions are under assault internally,” Clapper said, referring to recent actions by President Trump, including the abrupt termination of FBI director James Comey. “The founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances,” he said. “I feel as though that is under assault and is eroding.”

Security for Domestic Intelligence Facilities Revised

On June 13, a mentally ill man rammed his car into the gate at CIA headquarters, causing some damage and disruption (See “CIA Gate Crasher Gets 30-day Sentence” by Rachel Weiner, Washington Post, August 16).

Three days later, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a new directive on Security Standards For Protecting Domestic IC Facilities. A copy of the unclassified Intelligence Community Directive 706, dated June 16, 2016, was recently made available by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The new intelligence directive sets security standards for “planning and designing new facilities and renovation of existing facilities.”

“The protection of facilities is a preeminent concern for the IC. Applying baseline physical security standards to manage risks and mitigate threats enables the IC to effectively protect facilities and reduce vulnerabilities.”

However, while facility security is “a” preeminent concern, it is not “the” preeminent concern. Security remains subordinate to the intelligence mission:

“IC facilities shall comply with the appropriate physical security standards… except where that compliance would jeopardize intelligence sources and methods,” the directive states.

Energy Policy and National Security: The Need for a Nonpartisan Plan

As I write this president’s message, the U.S. election has just resulted in a resounding victory for the Republican Party, which will have control of both the Senate and House of Representatives when the new Congress convenes in January. While some may despair that these results portend an even more divided federal government with a Democratic president and a Republican Congress, I choose to view this event as an opportunity in disguise in regards to the important and urgent issue of U.S. energy policy.

President Barack Obama has staked a major part of his presidential legacy on combating climate change. He has felt stymied by the inability to convince Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to mandate substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, his administration has leveraged the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to craft rules that will, in effect, force the closure of many of the biggest emitters: coal power plants. These new rules will likely face challenges in courts and Congress. To withstand the legal challenge, EPA lawyers are working overtime to make the rules as ironclad as possible.

The Republicans who oppose the EPA rules will have difficulty in overturning the rules with legislation because they do not have the veto-proof supermajority of two-thirds of Congress. Rather, the incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said before the election that he would try to block appropriations that would be needed to implement the new rules. But this is a risky move because it could result in a budget battle with the White House. The United States cannot afford another grinding halt to the federal budget.

Several environmental organizations have charged many Republican politicians with being climate change deniers. Huge amounts of money were funneled to the political races on both sides of the climate change divide. On the skeptical side, political action groups affiliated with the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch received tens of millions of dollars; they have cast doubt on the scientific studies of climate change.  And on the side of wanting to combat climate change, about $100 million was committed by NextGen Climate, a political action group backed substantially by billionaire Tom Steyer. Could this money have been better spent on investments in shoring up the crumbling U.S. energy infrastructure? Instead of demonizing each side and just focusing on climate change, can the nation try a different approach that can win support from a core group of Democrats and Republicans?

Both Democratic and Republican leaders believe that the United States must have strong national security. Could this form the basis of a bipartisan plan for better energy policy? But this begs another question that would have to be addressed first: What energy policy would strengthen national security? Some politicians, including several former presidents, have called for the United States to be energy independent. Due to the recent energy revolution in technologies to extract so-called unconventional oil and gas from shale and sand geological deposits, the United States is on the verge of becoming a major exporter of natural gas and has dramatically reduced its dependence on outside oil imports (except from the friendly Canadians who are experiencing a bonanza in oil extracted from tar sands). However, these windfall developments do not mean that the United States is energy independent, even including the natural resources in all of North America.

Oil is a globally traded commodity and natural gas (especially in the form of liquefied natural gas) is tending to become this type of commodity. This implies that the United States cannot decouple its oil and gas production and consumption from other countries. For example, a disruption in the Strait of Hormuz leading to the Persian Gulf will affect about 40 percent of the globe’s oil deliveries because of shipments from Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirate. Such a disruption might occur in an armed conflict with Iran, which has been at loggerheads with the United States over its nuclear program. Moreover, while the United States has not been importing significant amounts of oil from the Middle East recently, U.S. allies Japan and South Korea rely heavily on oil from that region. Thus, a major principle for U.S. national security is to work cooperatively with these allies to develop a plan to move away from overreliance on oil and gas from this region and an even longer term plan to transition away from fossil fuels.

Actually, this long term plan is not really that far into the future. According to optimistic estimates (for example, from Cambridge Energy Research Associates) for when global oil production will reach its peak, the world only has until at least 2030 before the peak is reached, and then there will be a gradual decline in production over the next few decades after the peak.1)Peter Jackson, The Future of Global Oil Supply: Understanding the Building Blocks, Report, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, November 2009. (Pessimistic views such as from oil expert Colin Campbell predict the peak occurring around 2012 to 2015.2)Colin J. Campbell, “The Age of Oil,” in Ugo Bardi, Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014). We thus may already be at the peak.) Once the global decline starts to take effect, price shocks could devastate the world’s economy. Moreover, as the world’s population is projected to increase from seven billion people today to about nine billion by mid-century, the demand for oil will also significantly increase given business as usual practices.

For the broader scope national security reason of having a stable economy, it is imperative to develop a nonpartisan plan for transitioning from the “addiction” to oil that President George W. Bush called attention to in his State of the Union Address in January 2006. While skepticism about the science of climate change will prevail, this should not hold back the United States working together with other nations to craft a comprehensive energy plan that saves money, creates more jobs, and overall strengthens international security.

FAS is developing a new project titled Sustainable Energy and International Security. FAS staff will be contacting experts in our network to form a diverse group with expertise in energy technologies, the social factors that affect energy use, military perspectives, economic assessments, and security alliances. I welcome readers’ advice and donations to start this project; please contact me at [email protected]. FAS relies on donors like you to help support our projects; I urge you to consider supporting this and other FAS projects.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Peter Jackson, The Future of Global Oil Supply: Understanding the Building Blocks, Report, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, November 2009.
2. Colin J. Campbell, “The Age of Oil,” in Ugo Bardi, Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014).

“Ingenuity” Could Not Prevent Atom Bomb Espionage

When the internal history of the Manhattan Project was written in 1944, officials still believed — mistakenly — that the atom bomb program had evaded the threat of foreign espionage.

“Espionage attempts were detected but it is felt that prompt action and intensified investigative activity in each case prevented the passing of any substantial amount of Project information,” according to a previously overlooked page from the Manhattan District History that was declassified yesterday.

Although declassification of the official history was thought to have been completed in July of this year (WWII Atom Bomb Project Had More Than 1,500 Leaks, Secrecy News, August 21), a single page had been inadvertently withheld from disclosure.

When its absence was pointed out to Department of Energy classification officials, they expeditiously retrieved the missing page (page 2.4 of Volume 14), declassified it and incorporated it in the published online document.

The newly disclosed page presents a flattering view of Manhattan Project counterintelligence efforts.

“The CIC [Counterintelligence Corps] Special Agents assigned to espionage cases became proficient in all phases of investigation technique. Many of them displayed skill and ingenuity unsurpassed by the most experienced investigators,” the document said.

“Agents impersonated men of all occupations in order to obtain information that would enable them to evaluate a suspect properly. An agent worked as a hotel clerk for over two years while another became bell captain in the few months he worked as a bell hop. Agents have posed as electricians, painters, exterminators, contractors, gamblers, etc.”

Yet their skill and ingenuity were inadequate to the task.  It later became clear that the Manhattan Project had been effectively penetrated by a number of Soviet intelligence agents and sympathizers.

The Department of Energy’s publication of the 36-volume Manhattan Project history itself required an extra measure of devotion. First, the tens of thousands of individual pages, many of them on second- or third-generation carbon paper, were painstakingly reviewed. The Public Interest Declassification Board noted with approval that “these records received a line by line declassification review, rather than being subjected to simple pass/fail determinations.” Then, once that process was completed, each page had to be manually scanned for online publication by the Department of Energy.

Except for a few passages stubbornly redacted by the CIA, the whole document has now emerged from the purgatory of sealed government archives and is now available to anyone who cares to read it.

 

Pacific Security Scholars Policy Papers

Pacific Security Scholars (PSS) policy papers are now available, examining  security issues and policy implications of emerging security issues in the Pacific region. Lora Vaioleti examines the impact of climate change on food security in Tonga and Briar Thompson examines the impact of 3D Printing on security in Pacific Island Countries.

The inaugural class of the Pacific Security Scholars (PSS) Program provided leading post-graduate and research degree students from Pacific Island countries with an opportunity to be part of the global discourse on “International Security and the Pacific Islands.” The Federation of American Scientists, Pacific Islands Society, Emerging Science and Technology Policy Centre, Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies (CANZPS) at Georgetown University, and Pacific Society at SOAS joined as official partners for its inaugural year.

Under the close guidance  of leading experts in relevant fields, the participants the unique challenges faced by the Pacific Islands. The papers produced by the program’s inaugural class includes in-depth analyses on a security issues ranging from climate change to food security. Their insights are designed to offer tangible policy recommendations to policymakers and policy stakeholders. In so doing, it is hoped that they will provide a valuable mechanism for empowering young leaders from the region to be recognized as next generation leaders for emerging security issues on the world stage.

About the Scholars:

Briar Thompson is a Rhodes Scholar from New Zealand pursuing graduate study at Somerville College, University of Oxford. She has completed an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, in which her thesis focused on how the protection needs of those vulnerable to displacement linked to environmental stress might be provided, with particular reference to Pacific small island states. Starting this fall, Briar will be reading for the Master of Public Policy at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, where she intends to continue relating her studies to the Pacific region. Briar’s essay examines the impact of 3D printing in Pacific Island countries and security concerns associated with this technology and is available here (PDF).

Lora Vaioleti is a Fulbright scholar who recently worked in a leadership development and strategy role for the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA). A New Zealander of Tongan ancestry, her work has centred on exploring human security challenges within the wider Pacific, especially in regards to climate change and forced relocation. To this end, Vaioleti has led national, regional, and international research projects for a number of Pacific-focused organizations. A continuing research fellow for the Center of Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine, and the Indigenous Maori and Pacific Adult Education Charitable Trust (IMPAECT), she continues to research the latent value of traditional Pacific social practices in increasing human security and social resilience to both abrupt and long-term climate change effects. Vaioleti received a Masters of Management with a concentration in Sustainability from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and a Bachelor of Physiotherapy from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Lora’s essay examines climate change and its effect on food security in Tonga and is available here (PDF).

Moral Rights in International Political Discourse on Global Ethics

Yesterday, I was pleased to find in my inbox a response to my recent blog post on global citizenship by His Excellency Alvaro Cedeno Molinari, who serves as the Ambassador of Costa Rica to Japan. His narrative reply elaborates on his thoughts on global citizenship as originally presented to the Junior Chamber International Tokyo a few weeks ago.

In his response, Molinari appears to argue for a conceptualization of morality best suited to natural law (lex naturalis). By this, I mean that he appears to conceptualize certain global ethics as natural rights for all humanity. I say this because he argues that there exists an ontologically objective “moral right” for all humans to live in a world that respects nature. He maintains this to be the case even if the positive laws governing inter-state and intra-state behavior fail to construct such rights in the absence of global consensus on their necessity. And, he appears to argue for epistemological objectivity through an appeal to rationalism when he takes the methodological approach of “restating the obvious” and outlining moral truths.

In Molinari’s argument, one therefore finds a natural affinity to classical natural law theory grounded in moral realism. Yet, at the same time, one also finds a strong sense of moral idealism in his response. This is evident in his reference to Einstein’s quote, “imagination is more important than knowledge.”

So, how does one reconcile notions of moral rights with a world where intra-state and inter-state relations are governed almost exclusively by international and domestic conventions (ex. laws)?

To begin with, it is important to point out that aspects of Molinari’s argument are not mutually exclusive of a social constructivist interpretation of morality. If we engage our imaginations as Molinari suggests, we can imagine ideal worlds. Each of these ideal worlds will be subjective. By this, I mean that they will represent each individual’s world as viewed through that individual’s mental states. However, these subjective worlds may in fact share common features. And, these common features may hinge on certain shared imagined rights and obligations governing human behavior.

The crux of socially constructing new moral rights and obligations therefore hinges on our ability to collectively agree on shared features. These shared features represent the lowest common denominator (LCD) of what we consider to be our shared conceptualization of “morality.” It is through such shared features that we can socially construct “moral rights” through positive law (jus positum). But, if we don’t explore these imagined worlds and determine our own subjective moral rights and obligations, we cannot hope to collectively define a set of common features upon which to base new laws and conventions since the ideal worlds upon which they are based are not experienced as part of every day life.

Of course, moral rights and obligations need not be based on a social constructivist theoretical approach. There are a wide variety of alternatives upon which to conceptualize such rights in both objective (ex. moral realism) and subjective terms (ex. ethical subjectivism). And, this takes us back to my earlier comments on the apparent affinity between Molinari’s arguments and the appeal of moral realism and the natural law of morality.

If one contends that such moral rights and obligations exist absent formal and/or informal conventions (i.e. international laws; international conventions, etc.), then one of the most common philosophical arguments held is the claim that they just exist out there in reality and we can come to know what they are through our sensory experiences or through reason. In this sense, moral rights and obligations are held to be natural. It is not explicit whether or not Molinari endorses this reading, but many others have in the past. And, at least from my reading of Molinari, it would appear that he is attracted to similar philosophical predispositions.

In any event, I found the Ambassador’s response to be quite valuable so I would encourage others to read it over as well. Perhaps you will arrive at different conclusions. But, either way, I believe that it is important for each of us to consider Molinari’s claim that there are certain objective moral rights and obligations when we consider the emerging concept of “global citizenship.” Whether you agree with Molinari’s argument will depend upon your own philosophical commitments. However, if you maintain that such moral rights and obligations are in fact natural rights and obligations that exist out there beyond humankind, then you would place yourself in opposition to those who argue that these written declarations provide the sole basis for the existence of such moral rights and obligations in the social world. Yet, at the same time, you would in turn possess a theoretical basis for endorsing the notion that such moral rights and obligations can exist absent their constitution through formal and/or informal conventions, which is a central tenet of Molinari’s conceptualization of global citizenship.

Michael Edward Walsh is an Adjunct Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. He is also the President of the Emerging Science and Technology Policy Centre and a Visiting Scholar at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. You can follow him on Twitter at @aseanreporting.

U.S. Military Nuclear Material Unaccounted For: Missing in Action or Just Sloppy Practices?

The United States has the gold standard when it comes to accounting for fissile materials especially in the military sector. Yet, for more than 30 years, government reports have sounded the alarm that the accounting system for these materials is not adequate. The United States is still not meeting its most stringent standards. If the nuclear material accounting system is not adequate, what does it imply for nuclear-armed states that are still manufacturing and remanufacturing warheads more frequently than the United States?

FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson examines missing U.S. nuclear fissile materials in a chapter of the new book Nuclear Weapons Materials Gone Missing: What Does History Teach? (published by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.) The chapter examines incidents of missing materials (such as missing highly enriched uranium from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania from the 1960s) and provides an overview of U.S. military control and accounting systems and recommendations on how to improve these systems.

Read the chapter here (PDF).

The XYCs of Disasters

As those who follow my work might know, my academic research outside of the Federation of American Scientists examines conceptual issues in security studies. I am specifically interested in how social groups like states come to socially construct terms like “natural disaster” as security issues. In fact, my doctoral research attempts to illustrate the process by which these institutional facts are constructed in the specific contexts of Post-Cold War Germany and Japan. Unfortunately, such theoretical exercises can appear boring to those in the policymaker community who are far more interested in these terms’ application in practice. That said, I would argue that if we don’t understand the process by which security issues are socially constructed, then we can’t hope to understand how and why these terms carry so much weight in the policymaking process. So, on that note, I wanted to take a brief moment to pose the question, “What is a disaster?”

In my forthcoming journal article entitled “Disasters as Institutional Facts,” I seek to lay out a John R. Searle inspired theoretical approach for understanding how the term “disaster” is socially constructed across varying contexts. I will attempt to summarize its key points here as my response to the question. To understand “What is a disaster?,” I argue that we must first understand what counts as a disaster. In the international community, there remains no collective agreement between states on what the X or the C are in [X counts as a “Disaster” in Context C]. In the words of the International Law Commission, disasters are not “a term of art and, as such, lack() one single accepted definition.” In the absence of a collectively agreed upon international definition, we must instead look to the domestic legislation of the individual member states for their own definitions. This means exploring the procedures by which disasters come to be validly declared in each country. Typically, this entails looking at bureaucratic and/or political processes in the absence of written laws or policies that explicitly define what constitutes a disaster.

However, I argue in my piece that merely understanding the X in the [X counts as a Disaster] for a specific country is not enough. A complete picture of disasters requires also understanding which actors (S) are provided which powers (A) in the event of their occurrence. Theoretically, we find this expressed as the S, A, and C in Searle’s function: “We accept (S has the power (S does A)) in [Context C],” where C is the specific country of interest. Identifying the full set of S-A relationships is not an easy task for complex social issues like disasters. Typically, there are multiple levels of S, as one level of S usually possess the power to delegate powers to another level of S (ex. head of state delegating administrative powers to cabinet officials). To understand the concept of “disaster” within a specific context (say Japan), we must therefore account not only for the X but also the full set of deontic powers, including: 1) Actor-Powers (S-A); 2) Power Delegation Practices (S-A-S). This may require some level of abstraction as it may be difficult to account for all the actors involved in the response, especially in an event like the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake or the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami.

Some might counter that this account is a bit complicated. I mean, isn’t it clear to everyone that the Great East Japan Earthquake was a disaster? And, isn’t it clear that the Japanese Prime Minister possessed a commonsense set of powers to respond to the disaster? From that perspective, one might argue that 3/11 serves as a paradigm case. And, there would probably be few who would disagree. But, as many theorists have pointed out, an appeal to a paradigm case is not an explanatory move but merely a descriptive one. And, it is quite clear that the powers that Japanese Prime Minister possessed in responding to 3/11 differed from the powers that many other heads of state would have possessed in the same disaster (i.e. context specific). For those reasons, we in the policy community need to have a theoretical foundation upon which to account for the “why in the what.” Herein, I have attempted to provide a basic explanation of that “why in the what” as derived from institutional fact theory. While that theory has its share of critics, I believe that it nevertheless provides a compelling theoretical basis for understanding how social issues such as “natural disasters” are socially constructed into policy issues. If you agree, then the conceptual ABCs of Searle’s X, Y, C, S, and A are quite central to understanding “What is a disaster?”

Michael Edward Walsh is a PhD Student at SOAS, University of London. He currently serves as a Visiting Researcher at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, an international PhD affiliate of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, and an Academic Guest of Universität der Bundeswehr München. This post is derived from his doctoral research as presented in his forthcoming journal article entitled, “Disasters as Institutional Facts.” Original post here.

Kakehashi Trip Report #4: JICA Officials Share Perspectives on the Security-Development Nexus in East Africa

During my independent research for the Kakehashi Project, I met with officials from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to discuss Japan’s development assistance to East Africa. We specifically addressed the emerging nexus between Japan’s security and development initiatives in the region.

Since 1967, the Government of Japan (GoJ) has been managing defense trade exports under the Three Principles on Arms Exports. The law was intended to avoid any possibility that Japanese arms exports would “aggravate international conflicts.” Under the Three Principles, the GoJ bans Japanese companies from making defense trade exports to: 1) communist bloc countries; 2) countries subject to arms exports embargo under United Nations Security Council Resolutions; 3) countries involved in or likely to be involved in international conflicts. The GoJ took additional steps in 1976 to establish blanket policy guidelines to further restrain defense trade exports to all other countries “in conformity with Japan’s position as a peace-loving nation.”

The Administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now working to change these laws in order to allow Japan to export military equipment to “international organizations such as those involved in U.N. peacekeeping operations on condition they do not take sides in conflicts.” This decision coincides with a growing trade deficit that is threatening to undermine Japan’s economic recovery. From this perspective, the defense trade exports are viewed to be as much a part of the Administration’s export promotion efforts as they are part of the country’s much debated military normalization process.

This brings us to the issue of capacity building in East Africa. One of the initiatives being pushed by the Abe Administration is to provide the littoral countries in the region with new capabilities to conduct counter-piracy operations. This includes the export of modern naval ships to the region and military training for their coast guards. According to JICA, these programs are likely to move forward but will present a challenge for the government because they raise delicate political sensitivities. In the case of the ships, the fact that they will be provided to civil authorities may not be enough. As modern naval vessels equipped with armaments, including machine guns, their export could enflame the domestic debate over the principles that ban arms export to any country since 1976 and the appropriate role for the military and defense industry in Japan today.

Djibouti serves as an interesting case because it has not traditionally been a major focus of JICA. However, the political context has changed since Japan opened its first semi-permanent overseas military base in Djibouti in 2011. That base, which supports counter-piracy and peacekeeping operations in the region, has raised the profile of Djibouti with politicians and defense officials. As a consequence, JICA has been required by the government to expand its operations in the country as part of Japan’s wider efforts to help secure vital trade and energy routes that pass through the region.

That said, JICA is designed to deliver development aid, not to provide military ships and training for security purpose. In other countries, this would typically fall to military defense cooperation agencies. However, it would be politically difficult for the Ministry of Defence to provide such assistance directly in Japan. While that could change once the export laws are changed and society is normalized to the military playing a bigger role in Japan’s foreign policy, JICA officials believe this will take some time. Until then, the GoJ will need to work through JICA and the Japanese Coast Guard to provide coast guard services within the extent that they remain civilian security services.

For JICA, this is a “delicate issue” because there is a lot of tension in a development agency to playing a direct role in supporting security operations in the region. The region poses serious dangers for JICA staff. The agency is not allowed to operate in Somalia due to security concerns in that country. And, its staff recently had to be evacuated from both South Sudan and Yemen. JICA is therefore aware of the challenge to provide naval vessels to coastal countries in these areas even though they are intended solely for civil law enforcement purposes.

According to one official, “In my personal opinion, this should be a military operation. JICA is a development assistance agency not a specialist in combatting piracy. We can get support from the Coast Guard, who has the expertise. But, they have the conflict in the Senakakus to manage” and might not have the capacity to support the operation on the scale imagined. JICA is therefore reticent to expand the scale of such programs.

Despite the organization’s reservations, JICA must nevertheless plan for follow through on the GoJ’s request to make these transfers when the export law changes go into effect. At present, JICA believes the first request will be for Djibouti. Even though the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (U.K.) would like Japan to send ships to Yemen, the situation there is too unstable. The Japanese Coast Guard and JICA have even stopped their training assistance to the Yemeni Coast Guard.

One official that I spoke with believes that the U.S. and U.K. are more experienced in these complex security environments and should take the lead. The official also said that Yemen is not the case for Japan to take on. Regardless of the operational security concerns, the Three Principles make it clear that Japan is not to export to countries engaged in international conflict. Given the international nature of terrorism and the number of actors engaged in the conflict in Yemen, that official felt that it is unlikely that Japan will provide naval vessels or further training to Yemen anytime soon.

However, Somalia is a potential candidate. In 2013, Japan resumed support to the new government in that country. This followed the Somali government’s perceived consolidation of power in the country. As a result of these changes, Somalia was invited to the Tokyo International Conference on African Development V (TICAD V). Japan is now investigating how to support counter-piracy capacity building in the country. While it is too early to consider the provisioning of a naval vessel to their coast guard, this request could follow. But, trust must be built first. And, there are still serious debates within the GoJ as to whether Japan should lead with security sector capacity building or social sector (education and health) capacity building. Right now, it is too early to tell which direction Japan will take.

However, JICA officials recognize that peace and security (P&S) will be a major focus for their organization moving forward. In TICAD V, the GoJ raised P&S to one of the most urgent areas of focus for development. This followed the deadly attacks in Algeria, which claimed the lives of 10 Japanese engineers. As a consequence of that incident, Abe made P&S a precondition for expanding Japanese business interests abroad. JICA is receiving requests from both the Japanese business community and the GoJ to promote increased peace and stability in Africa as part of the country’s export promotion agenda. Somalia and the Sahel are now viewed as two of the GoJ’s most important commitments in Africa.

The challenge for JICA is that Japanese development assistance traditionally starts from social sector capacity building and infrastructure development. Japan does not have deep experience in security sector capacity building and peace building operations when compared to other major powers. Even though Japan has developed an impressive record supporting U.N. peacekeeping operations in the last decade, this is a very recent shift in focus for Japan. JICA is therefore struggling to respond to the new P&S focus while simultaneously supporting its traditional development assistance programs around the world.

Looking ahead, how JICA responds will have a major impact on Japanese development assistance in Africa. Right now, piracy and terrorism are two important issues for the country. In fact, both piracy and Somalia were highlighted in Abe’s address at TICAD V. However, Japan’s support for counter-piracy operations in Africa is a very small percentage of its overall budget commitments and global strategy. JICA must therefore be careful not to undermine its other commitments.

Whereas Djibouti and Somalia have traditionally been lower priorities for JICA, Kenya remains the organization’s most important commitment in Africa. Since the 1960s, Japan has been engaged in projects in the country. And, according to one official, the Japanese people have developed a “psychological closeness” with Kenyans, Tanzanians, and Ethiopians in a way that’s unrivaled in the rest of Africa. In 2013, Japan committed $100 million in grants and technical cooperation to the country. Plus, Japan has made long-term aid commitments of $200-$300 million annually, including marquee projects like the Mombasa Port and Kenya’s modernization of power generation. While Japan is also talking to Kenya about providing naval vessels and training to its Coast Guard, these efforts pail in comparison to the larger infrastructure, agriculture, education, health, and environmental projects that JICA is leading in the country.

Another country of focus is Mozambique, where the GoJ sees huge potential for natural gas production. In the aftermath of the Fukushima incident and rising global competition for energy resources, such energy projects are of top priority for Japan. The GoJ has responded by tasking its ministries to focus on the country. JICA has responded by working with Mitsui Group and other private sector actors to secure oil exploration and development projects in the country. However, JICA recognizes that the relationship between the two countries must be built upon more than natural gas exports. JICA is therefore spearheading new projects in the infrastructure and agricultural sectors that could promote development in Mozambique that would make it possible for the country to play a role in Japan’s economic recovery and export promotion strategies. In this way, JICA is building a new import-export market for Japanese investors. The hope is that private sector actors will now follow and make long-term commitments to the country. If they do, Mozambique and Kenya could emerge as major lynchpins for Japanese investment on the continent.

This is the fourth in a series of reports related to the Japan Foundation’s Kakehashi Visit for Young Public Intellectuals from January 12-22, 2014. The author represented SOAS, University of London and the Federation of American Scientists as part of the Pacific Forum CSIS Young Leaders delegation.

Kakehashi Trip Report #3: Shipowner Shares Perspective on Industry Response to Somali Piracy

As part of my Kakehashi Project independent research day, I had the opportunity to meet with a senior maritime security officer at a major Japanese commercial maritime shipping line to discuss the role of their industry in the country’s response to Somali maritime piracy. I have tried to capture the major takeaways from our discussion below.

Traditionally, the maritime security officer said that the relationship between the Japanese commercial maritime shipping industry and Japanese and foreign militaries has been unusually weak as a consequence of the considerable losses suffered by Japanese commercial maritime shipping industry during the Second World War. Although not widely known, I was told that more commercial seafarers were killed during the war than Japanese soldiers. As a consequence, the industry remains reticent to draw too close to the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Forces (JMSDF). However, since the passage of Law on Punishment of and Measures against Acts of Piracy (Law No. 55 of 2009), there has been a noticeable change in the willingness of the industry to partner with the Japanese Government, the European Union, NATO, and others to confront the threat posed by Somali maritime pirates. This has only increased following the passage of 2013 revisions to the Japanese Firearms and Swords Control Law, which gave Japanese flagged vessels the right to employ armed guards.

However, the maritime security officer felt that it would be wrong to say that the relations between the Japanese commercial maritime shipping industry and the JMSDF are comparable with those of other major powers. To this day, the industry regularly liaises with the U.S. Navy and the European Union Naval Forces but not the JMSDF. Such correspondence is instead routed through the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation (MLIT). While bridges are starting to be built on a personal level between the industry and JMSDF, there remain major barriers that inhibit deep cooperation. In the meantime, the industry relies heavily on the European Union, NATO, and the Combined Maritime Forces for information about Somali maritime piracy.

Nevertheless, the maritime security officer argued that the industry has come a long way in recognizing the need for the Japanese Government to play a leading role in confronting Somali maritime piracy. In 2006, the industry was “not so serious” about the threat posed by Somali maritime pirates and the maritime security officer’s line did not request anything of the government on this account. However, by 2007, their company had established a new team to address the issue and started to talk to the Japanese Shipowners Association (JSA) about the need to engage the government. This followed the Golden Nori incident, which made the industry aware of the seriousness of the threat posed by the Somali maritime pirates. At first, the focus was on the threat of terrorism. However, by 2008, the industry recognized the larger economic security threat posed by the Somali maritime pirates.

At that time of the Golden Nori incident, the maritime security officer held that the Japanese Seafarers Laws (Sen In Ho) were the only laws on the book that addressed maritime piracy. Unfortunately, those laws were weak in that they bundled maritime piracy under the undefined term “serious marine accident.” The industry therefore fully supported the enactment of Law No. 55 of 2009 for two major reasons: 1) it clearly defined what constituted an act of maritime piracy; 2) it conferred specific rights and responsibilities on the Government of Japan to protect commercial vessels from these now defined acts of piracy. Initially, the industry felt that this went far enough. However, by 2011, it was clear that the international military response was not enough. The industry then supported the enactment of 2013 revisions to the Japanese Firearms and Swords Control Law, which gave the commercial shipowners the powers to employ armed guards aboard Japanese flagged vessels. While this was something new in Japan, it was already a generally accepted practice in many countries around the world, which was one of the reasons why the law was able to pass in the Diet.

According to the maritime security officer, the issue of reporting remains contentious in Japan. While the Law No. 55 of 2009, clearly defines acts of piracy, it does so merely for the purpose of restraining the powers granted to the Japanese Government under the law. As a consequence, it remains unclear whether these acts do or do not fall under the serious marine accident reporting requirements of the Japanese Seafarers Laws and thus whether or not the owner and master are obligated to report such incidents to the Japanese Government. Reporting therefore remains a voluntary practice that is defined by company policy and the subjective determination of the master. While the major lines tend to err on the side of caution, there remains no industry standard or requirement. Furthermore, there is no movement in Japan at present to re-examine “serious marine incident reporting” or to place reporting rules on the shipowners or ship management companies in lieu of the masters for a variety of reasons.

However, the maritime security officer confirmed that the increased military activity in the Western Indian Ocean has made the entire Japanese shipping industry aware of the need to be vigilant in reporting such incidents because there are now multiple channels monitoring the situation in the region. A failure to report an incident can therefore be picked up by another channel and shared with the Government of Japan. This has incentivized the Japanese commercial shipping industry to report more incidents than in the past, especially small scale incidents and failed attempts that otherwise would have gone unreported. This in turn ensures that there is far more information in the system about piracy than in the past.

This is the third in a series of reports related to the Japan Foundation’s Kakehashi Visit for Young Public Intellectuals from January 12-22, 2014. The author represented SOAS, University of London and the Federation of American Scientists as part of the Pacific Forum CSIS Young Leaders delegation.