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No.385 August 20, 2016


Given the complexity of a subject that refers simultaneously to national inter-ministry problems and international relations issues, and to predictable or undergoing evolutions in these fields in both countries, this study cannot be considered an exhaustive analysis of official standpoints nor those currently under review. It has to be considered as an observation of national and international maritime challenges across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region affecting both Japan and France elaborated from the two blueprint documents, the National Security Strategy of Japan, issued in December 20131, and the Defense and Security Policy for the Asia-Pacific, published by the French Ministry of Defense in April 20142. Based on the respective ocean policies’ settings and a number of interviews, the study looks at the enabling conditions towards a common comprehensive maritime initiative to be part of the Strategic Partnership of Exception established between both countries.


The notion of maritime space as stipulated in this study has its origins in regional, physical, economic and cultural realities. Associated as a subset of the global ocean, maritime space encompasses all human activities and natural phenomena that take place or occur there. It includes the dependencies and local populations of all coastal countries whose activity wholly or partially is derived from, or directed towards the sea. Thus, maritime space comprises not only the sea itself, with most diverse activities, but also the on-shore areas where sea-based human activities or natural phenomena converge with those taking place on land and vice versa. The notion of maritime space unveils the extent of interdependence and the expansion of ‘seaward’ relationships between countries with geographical proximity and through networks established between more distant maritime regions.

Thus, the notion of security as applied to a maritime space is composed of the States’ capacity, individually or collectively, to observe, analyze and predict evolutions of an essential region of the world in order to guarantee its stability, development and preservation in all aspects. This implicitly calls for the establishment of cooperative measures of prevention, protection, and intervention so as to guarantee a peaceful and sustainable maritime development, overcoming the risks and threats that are present in the oceans, while preserving the compatibility of national interests with the management of our ‘common heritage of mankind’ which is the ocean. Such is the challenge of national maritime policies as well as maritime foreign policies, requiring the development of integrated maritime policies.

In July 2007, Japan declared its interest in the development of a comprehensive maritime policy covering all sectors of government maritime activity, to be followed by the adoption by the Parliament (Diet) of the Basic Act on Ocean Policy (2008). This law laid the foundations for the Integrated Maritime Policy of Japan, and established the Headquarters for Ocean Policy (HOP) within the Cabinet Office as the directing organ of the inter-ministerial coordination4.

Similarly, but limited to the State intervention at sea, France set up a coordination body, the Secretary General of the Sea (SG Sea) to efficiently respond to natural and man-made disasters that have heavily and increasingly hit its coastline. This organization is structured to coordinate various administrations with capacity for response intervention (Navy, Customs, Maritime Affairs, National Police, National Gendarmerie and Civil Security) under the authority of a single government representative responsible for each maritime region: the Prefet Maritime (Maritime Prefect) on the continent and Prefets or Hauts Commissaires (Prefects or High Commissioners) in overseas territories. In metropolitan France, the maritime prefecture’s functions are performed by Admirals double-hatted as operational controllers of the Navy assets assigned to their region (the Channel and the North Sea, Atlantic and the Mediterranean). Overseas, the Prefects or High Commissioners are assisted in this task by a Navy officer appointed as Maritime Area Commander.
In October 2015, the Inter-ministerial Committee of the Sea (CIMER) adopted the National Strategy for the Security of Maritime Areas5, prepared under the coordination of SG Sea, towards an integrative maritime strategic vision and objectives as a common inter-ministerial framework to ensure the security of marine spaces in a coordinated manner.

France's EEZ(blue) including submission of the limits of the continental shelf (red)
(Source: National strategy for the security of maritime areas, 2015)


Under the growing effect of globalization on the economy and exchanges of all kinds, the strategic environment of world powers has a tendency to team-up. This is especially the case for Japan and France. While their capitals are 12.000 km apart, the two countries face the same global challenges and security issues. Although the focus of their observations will vary in relation to their geographical location, both countries are aware that in the event of a serious crisis of any kind (be it environmental, health-related or having to do with conventional or non-traditional security) in either regional environment, the security of the other would be affected, whether it be in Europe, Africa, the Middle East or the Indo-Pacific area.

More specifically, surveillance of maritime spaces under the sovereignty of the two countries in the Asia Pacific region is perhaps the first accessible testing ground for maritime cooperation. Provided that both countries have similar maritime governing bodies and compatible maritime policy goals6, they interestingly could investigate security issues and surveillance of specific maritime spaces on an axis connecting Tokyo to Noumea and Tahiti. Such an initiative could be supported by a dual national maritime expert network (Maritime Task Force) bringing together researchers from strategic research institutions like NIDS and IRSEM7, think tanks like OPRI, administrative experts from ministries, Navy and Coast Guard staffs and forces as well as from structures dedicated to the coordination of inter-ministry activity responsible for maritime policy, maritime surveillance and national security.

Such a comprehensive and maritime approach, which has already been initiated with Australia and New-Zealand8, should tightly link security, sustainable development, and socio-environmental issues such as maritime surveillance and ocean observation, small islands and climate change, renewable energies, deep sea mineral resources, marine litter or large marine protected areas, etc. A concrete but catalyst step could be made with the organization, by the end of 2017, of a Japan-France bilateral inter-agency maritime seminar, bringing together researchers and administrative experts.

  1. http://japan.kantei.go.jp/96_abe/documents/2013/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2013/12/17/NSS.pdf
  2. France and Security in the Asia-Pacific, April 2014: http://www.defense.gouv.fr/dgris/reflexion-strategique/prospective-de-defense/rapport-la-france-et-la-securite-en-asie-pacifique (to be updated in June 2016).
  3. Pour une politique globale des espaces des espaces maritimes ≫, Christophe Pipolo, Revue de la Defense Nationale, aout-septembre 2009.
  4. Virginie Saliou, ≪ Pour une strategie maritime internationale integree de la France ≫, note interne, avril 2015.
  5. The National Strategy for the Security of Maritime Areas : http://www.gouvernement.fr/sites/default/files/contenu/piece-jointe/2016/01/strategie_nationale_de_surete_des_espaces_maritimes_en_national_strategy_for_the_security_of_maritime_areas.pdf
  6. Yves Henocque: ≪ The crafting of integrated coastal management in Japan (East Asia) and France (Europe).A 3-year journey with the Ocean Policy Research Foundation in Japan (2009-2012)” ≫, final report, OPRF.
  7. IRSEM: Institut de Recherche Strategique de l’Ecole Militaire, Paris.
  8. France, Australia and New Zealand ≪ Maritime Surveillance Trilateral Seminar ≫, Noumea, 23 October 2015.
  1. This article presents the personal views of the author and results from a study which was conducted from September 2014 to June 2015 as part of the National Institute Defense Studies auditors’ strategic analysis work. It does not reflect either the official position of the French Ministry of Defense or of its Government.