Tag Archives: Japan

Enforcement Coordination Cell – the “5 eyes +” hidden gem of Indo-Pacific security cooperation

As speculation simmers about the coming together of alliances or coalitions to counterbalance, deter, or confront the People’s Republic of China (PRC), such as an Asian NATO, a Quad plus, or a possible invitation to Japan to join the long-standing Anglo-Saxon “5-eyes” intelligence club (consisting of the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada), a new multilateral institution bringing together resident and outside powers for mutual security action has been largely overlooked.

Tucked away in North East Asia for the last two years, the Enforcement Coordination Cell (ECC) is a multilateral staff headquarts that includes Japanese, South Korean and French navies with their Australia-Canada-New Zealand-UK-USA “five eyes” counterparts and may be considered a hidden gem of Asia-Pacific security cooperation. So why has hardly anyone heard of it?

The ECC coordinates the collection and fusion of information on violations of UN sanctions on North Korea (DPRK). The cell is based on the US Navy 7th Fleet ship USS Blue Ridge, but draws on data collected by the ships, planes and other surveillance platforms and mechanisms in a coalition that could be called an Asian ‘Five Eyes + 3”. According to US government officials “The effort is primarily focused on illicit North Korea exports of coal and refined petroleum” and looks at trans-shipments of fuels aimed at getting around sanctions. Here is how the ECC was described in the 2019 US Indo Pacific Strategy Report

An important example of partnerships with purpose is the Enforcement Coordination Cell (ECC) in Yokosuka, Japan. Commanded by USINDOPACOM and executed by U.S. Seventh Fleet, the United States is working sideby-side with South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom at a single headquarters to enforce the UNSCR sanctions regime against North Korea and the illicit transfer of oil and ship-to-ship transfers in the East China Sea and Korea Bay. The ECC allows us to work closely with our allies and partners to manage, coordinate, and de-conflict our efforts and is an importantfacilitator of transparent collaboration betweenour allies and partners at sea and in the air.”

The ECC is a curious animal, though. It does not fit neatly with any of the normal categories or criteria of coalitions, and in some ways it bucks the received wisdom on the limits of what is politically and operationally possible in this region.

1. It is a multinational mechanism that is not framed by a treaty or explicit diplomatic framework. Its purpose is to monitor UN sanctions, and so you might think it would come under the UN rear command that has been based in Japan since the 1950s, when the Korean War ended. But it doesn’t. It is not even clear from reading reports to the relevant UN sanctions committee that the information it collects goes to the Security Council. For whatever reasons, this is a case where adhocracy may be more operationally successful than it might be in a formal diplomatic framework like an ‘Asian NATO’, a ‘Quad’, or even the full United Nations Organisation that provides its rationale.

2. Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have their differences. Territorial disputes over islands, rancor over the history of the ‘comfort women’, and most recently a legal dispute over forced labour from the WWII era that has spilled over into toxic threats on trade and investment, as well as adding an irritant to important diplomatic, intelligence and security ties. And yet, in the ECC, Japanese and Korean armed forces cooperate on monitoring sanctions on the DPRK.

3. The ECC demonstrates how many countries from outside North East Asia are willing to commit to security in the region. This is not a NATO mission, but it includes officers from the UK, Canada and France. Australia and New Zealand are also taking part in the cell as well as providing advanced platforms for surveillance. There has even been speculation that a German navy vessel that is planned to sail to the region in 2021 might take on the enforcement monitoring role for a spell.

4. Perhaps as or more significant than the countries who are in this multinational force are those who are out. UN Security Council Permanent Members China and Russia – who after all voted for the sanctions on DPRK – are not only outside the ECC structure, some of their behaviour at sea suggests that they do not welcome the presence of a multinational force in the region.

A Royal Canadian Navy frigate – the HMCS Ottawa – and a Royal Canadian Airforce surveillance aircraft participate in Operation NEON, the multinational effort to enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea, October 2019.
Source: Department of National Defence, Canadian Armed Forces Combat Camera

Canada refers to its contribution as “Operation NEON“, and seems set to maintain a long term commitment. “During 2019 and 2020 and into 2021, Canada will periodically deploy military ships, aircraft and personnel to conduct surveillance operations to identify suspected maritime sanctions evasion activities, in particular ship-to-ship transfers of fuel and other commodities banned by the United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCR). This contribution will bolster the integrity of the global sanctions regime against North Korea.” On Opeation NEON Canada deploys a naval frigate, a supply vessel, and long range patrol aircraft. The surveillance platform CP-140 Aurora, crew and supporting personnel operate from Kadena airbase in Japan and The Canadian Armed Forces “may also provide up to three permanent liaison officers to the Enforcement Coordination Cell, a multinational staff headquarters” in Yokosuka.

In an innovative twist, the Canadian operation is linked to an information fusion project run by the oldest UK thinktank, RUSI. RUSI’s “Project Sandstone“, is an effort to systematically analyse and expose North Korean illicit shipping networks using open source data-mining and data-fusion techniques to spot activities of interest without reference to classified data. According to the Government of Canada “an unclassified set of Canadian data is transferred to Global Affairs Canada, who have contracted the Royal United Services Institute to conduct a deep analysis of the data using open-source information. The Royal United Services Institute prepares and releases reports to Global Affairs Canada that highlight and identify networks and individuals that may be involved in activity that supports sanctions violations (e.g. financing, insuring, etc.). Some reports have been shared with partner nations, and the intent is to further share a consolidated report with the UN.”

The ECC has recieved only limited exposure outside the specialist defence media, with this September 2018 WSJ article proving the rare exception. Does it deserve more attention?

With no end in sight to the stand-off between the DPRK and the UN over the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program, the ECC is becoming a more or less permanent fixture in the region. If it were to collect more members and aquire more tasks, that would not be the first time an ad hoc mechanism has evolved to a permanent feature shaping the security landscape and altering the calculus of regional actors. Meanwhile, it provides a platform for cooperation among a set of “like minded” nations to build up interoperability, regional situation awareness, and a reason to maintain a presence in the region should other contingencies arise.



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The quiet progress of Japan-Europe security and defence cooperation

d0715_headerimgnewThis is an excellent article by Michito Tsuruoka from the Japan National Institute of Defence Studies.

The author notes how fast the cooperative relationship has deepened, but how little known it remains outside a small circle of experts. Tsuruoka is concerned that is awareness remains low, both parties stand to lose out on a chance of really substantive gains. To counter this, he sets out some ideas on its potential and areas of mutual benefit. With apologies for shortcomings in my Japanese language comprehension, a summary follows.

Although networks for cooperation have expanded, expectations are limited by the fact that neither side expects Europe to play a direct military role in Asian security. From Japan’s point of view, Defence Diplomacy and Europe’s consistent support for the maintenance of international rules-based order is seen as important, especially in terms of maritime freedom of movement. As well as such relations with European states, Tsuruoka would like to see relations strengthened with EU defence institutions such as the EU Military Committee and the EU Military Staff. He suggests Japan (which shares European values and interests) would be a good partner in extending conflict prevention activity and action to cope with the effects of a military conflict in the region.

Cooperation should also be pursued outside the Asian region, such as in the Middle East and Africa. Other fields like cyber and space and especially joint development of hardware offer a new frontier. Interoperability is key, and the ‘soft’ side is as important as the hard side here, so there’s a need to work more intimately on concepts, terminology and plans in order to make it possible to understand one-other’s decision making processes and ways of working. More joint training is suggested.

Compared to the USA, the scale of capability and the estimate of what is possible are similar between Japan and European nations such as the UK, France and Germany, who have much to learn from one another.

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Japan, France sign defence equipment agreement at two-plus-two meeting

France JapanFrench Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, left, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, second left, join hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, seond right, and Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani during a Japan-France two-plus-two meeting in Tokyo, Friday, March 13, 2015. Japan and France signed an arms transfer agreement Friday, paving the way for developing drones and other unmanned equipment together as Japan seeks to play a greater military role internationally. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara,pool) The Associated Press

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Japan & Italy in talks for intelligence-sharing pact

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, background, arrives in Rome's Villa Pamphili for a meeting with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, on June 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, background, arrives in Rome’s Villa Pamphili for a meeting with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, on June 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

See following link for Mainichi report:

Japan, Italy to step up talks for intelligence-sharing pact

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uk-japan[ekm]300x155[ekm]Japan, Britain to sign cross-servicing pact

Details are emerging of what Abe’s visit to Europe has in store for the ‘new type’ of alliance relationship.

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April 30, 2014 · 5:57 am

Conference on Europe, Japan and Asian Security

Start: 8 Apr 2014 14:00
End: 8 Apr 2014 17:30

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in association with the Institute for European Studies (IES), is organizing a conference on Europe, Japan and Asian Security, which will take place at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on 8 April 2014. This joint initiative aims at promoting European-Japanese dialogue on security issues.

Participation is free of charge, but registration is required. Please register here.


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March 14, 2014 · 8:34 am

EU approach to Asian security beginning to take shape

EU-Japan meeting 870x370

An article of interest by Maaike Okano-Heijmans and Frans-Paul van der Putten in the Europe’s World site –

The EU should stay its independent course in East Asia

Maaike and Frans-Paul look at recent EU moves and observe that “the EU is not afraid to criticise the major Asian powers when it perceives their actions to be harmful to East Asia’s regional stability… [and] the EU is not taking sides with Japan against China or vice versa”.

Their conclusion:

Gradually and without attracting much attention the European Union is building a strategy on East Asian security affairs that is more focused and ambitious than it has ever been. Even without a military presence in the region the EU can make a difference. The challenge now is for Brussels to keep up its engagement, develop an independent voice and to uphold a long-term commitment to strengthening stability in the region. Asian governments have not hidden their disappointment with the EU about its rather half-hearted approach in the past decades, but may well be willing to give the EU a second chance – one that should not be wasted.

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China plays war memory card to enlist UK in territorial dispute against Japan

China's Ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming

China’s Ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming

Sibling blog anglojapanalliance.com draws attention to a letter from  China’s Ambassador in London to the Telegraph newspaper, which links China’s dispute with Japan in the East China Sea to the theme of Japan’s war record and PM Abe’s position on WWII and recent visit to Yasukuni shrine. Interesting to watch if and how London reacts.

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January 2, 2014 · 5:24 am

Time for Euro-Asia cooperation in Humanitarian and Disaster Relief role at sea?

RASGood blog post out by TPL:

There is Nothing Soft About Power

Sir Humphrey describes the practical challenges facing a European Navy in the disaster relief role in Asia, specifically the current situation in the Philippines. The UK’s Royal Navy happened to have a ship in the area (HMS Daring), and is sending another (Helicopter Carrier HMS Illustrious).

One difficulty facing the far flung fleet is sustainment – getting the re-supply at sea of fuel, spares, food, etc. that you need to keep doing the job, rather than having to head back to port to stock up (also known as RAS or Replenishment at Sea). The auxiliary ships that normally do this job take longer to steam around the other side of the world. And you don’t just learn RAS overnight. It requires some technique and practice, making commercial services a second-best option.

So what? So why don’t we leverage our ‘new type of alliance‘ with Japan, our Defence relations with other Asian nations (Australia, Vietnam, etc.) and organize a joint re-supply plan for such events? A re-supply ship sailing from Yokohama would be there sooner, and after all that experience in the Indian Ocean (last time Mr. Abe was in power), interoperability should be no problem. Time to use that ‘hotline‘?

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EU and Japan to deepen foreign and security partnership at 19 November summit

HR Ashton shaking hands with Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fumio Kishida

HR Ashton shaking hands with Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fumio Kishida

“We agreed that the forthcoming EU-Japan Summit Summit …would take place on 19 November in Tokyo. We expect it to focus on three themes: how to build upon and sustain the economic revival we are now seeing on both sides, and the contribution this will make to stabilising the global economy; how to build a closer partnership on foreign and security policy; and what we do to take forward our shared global interests

(emphasis added)

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