Heads of coast guards from more than 30 countries gathered in Tokyo on Thursday to discuss a wealth of issues, including how to cope with pirates, an increase in the number of boat people, and environmental pollution caused by a massive oil spill at sea.
The Coast Guard Global Summit, jointly hosted by the Japan Coast Guard and Tokyo-based Nippon Foundation, is the first of its kind, Japanese officials in Tokyo said.
Officers from 34 nations and Hong Kong took part in the event.
Participating countries included the US, Canada, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Australia, Turkey, Russia, France and Djibouti.
“In response to recent global environmental changes, it is now required for coast guards all over the world to establish interregional cooperation and collaboration beyond the existing bilateral and regional frameworks,” Admiral Satoshi Nakajima, commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, said during his opening remarks.
“This is the reason why we are co-hosting this summit today,” he added.
During three sessions scheduled for Thursday, coast guard leaders gave presentations on maritime security, marine environmental protection, and capacity building.
The participants, however, did not discuss territorial issues in East or South China Seas, Nakajima told reporters after the meeting.
“This meeting was a place of dialogue and cooperation of maritime safety organizations from around the world. It’s not a place to focus on issues of a particular region,” Nakajima said.
In general, Japan will keep asking Beijing to “exercise self-restraint and not to escalate” tension over the Senkaku islets of East China Sea, Nakajima added.
Beijing has claimed Japan-controlled islets, called Diaoyu in China, and has kept sending government ships to the sea around them.
The territorial dispute has been a source of chronic diplomatic tension between Beijing and Tokyo.
During Thursday’s sessions, the Turkish coast guard explained how it has coped with the “irregular migration problem,” namely issues involving boat people from Syria and other countries, according to Japanese officials.
Other topics included massive oil spills at sea and interregional cooperation against pirates, according to a summary of the closed sessions released to the media the same day.
“Because of global climate change, the size of typhoons and hurricanes has become larger and larger, causing bigger disasters,” a senior Japan Coast Guard officer said earlier this week.
Coast guard forces have also battled international crime and terrorism in recent years. The summit was organized for leaders to exchange views on such problems, the officer said.