I've been reading a lot of material on the news that the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a mega marine reserve in Kiribati, is going to be opened to commercial fishing. One of the articles mentioned about the Palau project of the Micronesian Maritime Security Project, which I launched in 2008, and said that around 5 billion yen in aid from the Nippon Foundation was for the PNMS marine reserve in Palau.
I would like to write about this because it is a totally false statement.
The Micronesian Marine Security Project was launched by me in 2008. There are many triggers for this project. One of them is that Commander Keating of the Pacific Command mentioned at a congressional hearing that China's Liberation Army had proposed to divide the Pacific Ocean in two, and Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation responded to this by writing an opinion piece in the Sankei Shimbun.
Yohei, however, knew nothing about the Pacific island, nether Micronesia. At his request, I suggested assistance to Micronesia, and the article was published with my ideas.
The other trigger was a proposal I made to the then Japanese ambassador to the Marshall Islands on the occasion of the Marshall Islands president's official visit to Japan, which led to a meeting with Yohei and a proposal for maritime assistance.
In response, myself and Jiro Hanyu, who at the time was assigned to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation from MLIT, visited the islands and decided to set up a Micronesian maritime security project with the cooperation of the Japan Coast Guard, which was under MLIT's jurisdiction.
I had very solid reasons for choosing Micronesia. First of all, I had already been supporting telecommunications regulatory reform within the framework of Micronesian regional cooperation for nearly a decade. I was hoping that this framework could be used to move maritime security forward as well.
I quickly began negotiating with the presidents and ministers of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands, and at the Micronesian Presidential Summit in November 2008, the issue was put on their agenda, and the three Micronesian countries formally requested the project.
The project suddenly became a marine protected area project when Palau's Remengesau, who was elected to his third term as president in 2013, proposed a marine protected area that would ban commercial fishing in the entire Palau EEZ. It was Jiro Hanyu who pushed for this idea despite Palau's limited maritime surveillance capabilities and questionable compliance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He was a specialist in aviation at MLIT yet an outsider to marine issues. Hiroshi Terashima, who worked at the same foundation and was transferred from the MLIT, seemed to be a specialist in marine issues, but instead of stopping him, he simply said, "Well, I won't listen to you."
In 2008, mindful of China's ambitions in the Pacific, which at the time no one was taking seriously, I launched the Micronesian Maritime Security Project, which includes Palau. It should be emphasized that this project has become a major foundation for the current U.S., Japan, Taiwan, British, French, Germany, Dutch, and other nations' maritime security military operations in Micronesia and the Pacific. Mega-sanctuary is not the original aim.
The purpose of both Kiribati and Palau is to establish a trust fund to pay for the operation of the mega marine reserves. It has long been pointed out that not only is there no clear scientific basis for these mega marine reserves, but that both countries have no monitoring capability and that they are nothing more than pie in the sky. Mega-marine reserves are not a target that should be supported. Rather, it is the strengthening of the marine surveillance system that the world's navies are embarking on that will be the key to countering fishery resources and China's maritime expansion.