The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Japan Coast Guard has decided on a plan to introduce a maritime surveillance system involving satellites to help pinpoint the location of vessels in need of rescue and to counter frequent intrusions by Chinese government ships into Japanese waters, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The satellite system, which could be introduced this fiscal year, will monitor and provide images covering a wide region, including coastal areas of neighboring countries. The images will be used for purposes such as vigilance, security, searches and investigations.
The JCG plans to start operating the system after concluding a contract with private operators of the satellites as soon as this autumn.
The JCG has set aside about ¥240 million for costs related to the satellite surveillance system in this fiscal year’s budget, and expects to ink a deal with private operators involved in transmitting images taken by satellites. The JCG anticipates the system will require several hundred million yen to run from next fiscal year.
Under the JCG plan, the satellites will monitor a 2.2-million-square-kilometer area extending from areas around the Japanese archipelago to coastal parts of China, South Korea, Russia and other nations.
The satellites will take photos of activity in these waters at least twice a day. The images will be sent to JCG regional headquarters and other entities across Japan to be used to assist searches and vigilance against intrusions.
The system will enable the JCG to quickly gauge the position of Chinese government vessels that have repeatedly intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, and strengthen steps to deter these vessels from approaching or entering these waters. The system will also be useful in pinpointing the location of people involved in maritime accidents who are in need of rescue. It will also make it possible to check whether suspicious ships are in the vicinity of important facilities, such as nuclear power plants.
Currently, the Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center, a body under the Cabinet Secretariat, operates satellites that monitor other nations’ military facilities and other installations. It provides photographic images upon request to the Defense Ministry and other government ministries and agencies. However, at a time when Chinese government ships frequently intrude into Japanese waters, the JCG apparently found it necessary to establish an independent satellite surveillance system to swiftly obtain information, separately from the center’s satellites.
The JCG has previously responded to its maritime surveillance and investigation requirements by boosting its patrol vessels and aircraft. If an independent satellite surveillance system is put in place, the JCG could take many images of waters it wants to focus on and collect more accurate information.
In 2012, 68 Chinese government ships intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. In 2016, this figure surged to 121 ships. Furthermore, in 2016, the JCG received rescue requests from more than 1,300 vessels that had been involved in accidents and other incidents, and nearly 2,000 patrol vessels were dispatched to handle these cases. The JCG’s duties cover a wide spectrum, ranging from maritime crime, such as gold smuggling, to responding to North Korean missile launches.
The JCG will also use the new system to monitor the ongoing volcanic eruption on Nishinoshima, an island under the jurisdiction of Ogasawara, a remote part of Tokyo. The coast guard has been periodically observing the island by plane.
“If we can continually monitor all of Japan by satellite, our ability to collect information will improve tremendously,” a JCG official said. “We want to protect maritime safety by doing this in combination with a strengthened posture of readiness at sea.”Speech