The Sovereignty of Freely Associated States in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific – 6/10/19

A free and open Indo-Pacific is one of the national security strategic objectives of the United States. According to the Department of Defense, this strategic objective is grounded in a set of overarching principles that includes respecting the sovereignty and independence of other nations.

The Compact of Free Association (COFA) Act of 1985 may have brought about an end to American trusteeship over the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. However, the United States Government continues to produce official documents that suggest that the Freely Associated States are not sovereign. For example, the Department of Defense recently classified the “Marshall Islands” under “US / US Territories” in the Base Structure Report – Fiscal Year 2018 Baseline. 

According to The Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, the United States has “an enduring commitment to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules, norms, and principles of fair competition.” Unfortunately, those official documents that suggest that the Freely Associated States are not sovereign undercut that commitment, which in turn risks negatively influencing the support of COFA citizens for the national security strategic objectives of the United States.

Michael Walsh is a Research Fellow in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. The opinions expressed are his own.

Djibouti: IMO Recommends Transforming Training Center – 11/30/17

At the Conference on the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC Conference), the government of Djibouti expressed renewed interest in making use of the Djibouti Regional Training Center (DRTC). A few weeks ago, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) responded by outfitting the facility with a modern computer-based training simulator. This project was funded through a financial contribution by the Kingdom of Denmark to the Djibouti Code of Conduct Trust Fund.

According to informed sources, the purpose of the training simulator was to provide the government of Djibouti with a simple way to enhance delivery of both national and regional courses. As part of the handoff, the IMO trained six Djiboutian officers on how to operate the equipment. The IMO also demonstrated the training modules for Marine Communication, Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), and Search and Rescue (SAR). From a public diplomacy perspective, the primary purpose of the training simulator was therefore to influence officials tasked with maritime safety and security, not the Djiboutian public.

Since the DCoC Conference, the IMO has been extremely candid with Djiboutian officials about the need to demonstrate their government’s commitment to make use of the facility. In one exchange, an IMO official explicitly warned a Djiboutian official that the DRTC is increasingly viewed as a failed project. The IMO official therefore urged the Djiboutian official to demonstrate that the center was open for business and reminded the Djiboutian official that the government would not be able to attract the support of more international partners as long as the facility remains idle. In their words, the government of Djibouti “cannot afford” to wait until the next calendar year to start planning events.

Following the handoff of the facility, an IMO official met with a Djiboutian official to propose a series of follow-up courses for Djiboutian port security personnel. The IMO official shared that the IMO was willing and able to immediately fund these courses and provide the trainers, but the government of Djibouti needed to officially request the funds. This was to ensure that the support given was both needs-driven and in-line with IMO procedures. According to foreign government officials, the government of Djibouti still has yet to make this request.

Although there remains serious concern about the commitment of the government of Djibouti to make use of the facility, the IMO still hopes that the government will start to realize the potential of the facility in the years ahead. Djiboutian officials simply need to start being creative in how they put the facility to use. This was stressed by an IMO official in a recent meeting with their Djiboutian counterpart.

At that meeting, the IMO official pointed out that the ideal use of the facility may be as a national training center for maritime safety and security. However, the government needs to keep in mind the sustainability of the DRTC. According to the IMO official, the government therefore needs to develop a business plan for center that takes into account its long-term sustainability. In developing this business plan, the IMO official suggested that the government consider alternative uses for the facility, including the allocation of some of the empty space to other initiatives and renting out the conference center for external events.

If Djiboutian officials move forward with developing a business plan, the government should carefully reconsider how the DRTC is conceptualized. Up until now, it has been conceptualized as a regional training center. However, it might be better to re-conceptualize the DRTC as a multi-use facility whose core mission is to support national and regional maritime safety and security training. This would promote the long-term sustainability of the facility.

Given the disillusionment of international partners with the DRTC project, this makes a lot of sense. If the government of Djibouti established an integrated maritime safety and security center on an empty floor of the facility or rented out the conference center to third parties for related events, then the facility would generate its own revenue stream that could be used to sustain courses in the years ahead. And, that would ultimately promote the interests of the international partners who funded the DRTC in the first place.

Michael Edward Walsh is a Research Fellow for African Studies at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS. This article is derived from his ongoing research project on counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.

Image Credit: ministeriebz via Flickr CC

Islands Society Launches Map of Overseas Military Bases in Djibouti City, Djibouti – 11/25/17

Today, the Islands Society launched a map of the major overseas military bases in the vicinity of Djibouti City, Djibouti. The map provides the general public with a way to observe the various overseas military bases through annotated geospatial imagery. Moving forward, the map will be updated as new geo-spatial imagery becomes available.

To view the new map, click here.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

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Image Credit: Michael Edward Walsh / Google Earth via Creative Commons

Islands Society Launches Base Tracker for Turkish Military Base in Mogadishu, Somalia – 11/25/17

Today, the Islands Society launched a base tracker for overseas military base of the Republic of Turkey in Mogadishu, Somalia. The tracker provides the general public with a way to observe changes in and around the Chinese base over time through targeted geo-spatial imagery. Moving forward, the geo-spatial imagery will be updated as new imagery becomes available.

To view the new Base Tracker, click here.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Image Credit: Michael Edward Walsh / Google Earth via Creative Commons

Islands Society Confirms Expansion of Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti – 11/24/17

The Islands Society can now confirm that the Japanese Government has renewed the land lease contract for the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti. This includes not only the original plot of land but also an additional plot of land to the north-east of the current base. The additional land measures approximately 3 hectares. And, the effective date of the renewal is 20 November 2017.

Press Release Confirming the Expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti

Note: DefenceWeb recently published an in-depth article on the expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base by the Director of the Overseas Military Bases Initiative at the Islands Society. Please find it here.

The Expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti – Michael Edward Walsh

Last year, Japanese officials revealed that the Japanese Government would lease additional land to expand the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti. According to media reporting at the time, the expansion of the base is intended to serve as a counterweight to the expanding strategic footprint of China in Africa and the Middle East. The Japanese Government still plans to lease additional land to expand the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti. In fact, the Japanese Government hopes to finalize a lease on the additional land within a week or so. However, the Japanese Government does not intend to build on this land until the next fiscal year. This is due to cyclical budgetary constraints. Once the lease is finalized, it will be interesting to see whether the expansion of the base will lead to a further expansion of the functions of the base. At the end of the day, the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti serves as an important mechanism for advancing the normalization agenda of the Abe Administration. The expansion of the base therefore not only provides an opportunity to further expand the functions of the base. It also provides an opportunity to further reform Japanese security policy.

The Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti

The Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti is the first Japanese overseas military base since World War II. Opened on 5 July 2011, the base is located on the northwest side of the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport. Unlike the French Naval Base of Djibouti, the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti does not provide docking for naval ships. It is also considerably smaller than the American and French expeditionary bases at Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport. However, the base does provide the Japan Self-Defense Force with direct access to a joint civilian/military-use airport. It also provides the Japanese Self-Defense Force with easy access to the American, French, and Italian expeditionary bases. This is useful in supporting multinational operations.

Overseas Military Bases at Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport (Source: OMBAI)

The Function of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti 

The Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti was specifically designed to support counter-piracy operations in the immediate vicinity of the Gulf of Aden. The primary function of the base remains to provide support for counter-piracy operations. However, the Japanese Government now supports counter-piracy operations beyond just the immediate vicinity of the Gulf of Aden. In fact, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces regularly conduct counter-piracy operations in a block of the Indian Ocean south of the island of Socotra Island, Yemen and east of the Puntland State of Somalia. These operations are in support of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151).

Approximate Location of Expanded Japanese Counter-Piracy Operations South of Socotra Island, Yemen (Source: OMBAI)

The function of the base has also expanded beyond support for counter-piracy operations. In recent years, the Japanese military has used the base to support peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. The Japanese military has also used the base to support the emergency evacuation of Japanese citizens from South Sudan. More recently, the function of the base expanded to support for multilateral non-combat exercises. In fact, the base was used to a joint-nation noncombatant evacuation operation (JN-NEO) exercise less than two months ago. This exercise was initiated by the Japanese Government. And, it marked the first time that the base has supported this kind of activity. 

The Expansion of the Japan Self-Defenses Force Base in Djibouti

The Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti was not designed to support current operational demands on the base. That is one of the main reasons why the Japanese Government is pursuing the lease of additional land that can be used to expand the base. According to foreign military officials, the Japanese Government has already identified an approximately 3-hectare parcel of land that they intend to lease. This land is part of an empty lot adjacent to northeast side of the current base. The Japanese Government has largely settled on the terms for the lease. In fact, the Japanese Government is close to finalizing the lease with the Djiboutian Government. The Japanese Government hopes to be able to do so in the next week or so. However, the Japanese Self-Defense Force is not in a position to immediately build upon the additional land due to cyclical budgetary constraints. For this reason, it is unlikely that the base facilities will be expanded before the next fiscal year.

Empty Lot Partially Sought by the Japanese Government (Source: OMBAI)

The Politics of the Japan Self-Defenses Force Base in Djibouti

If the expansion of the Japan Self-Defenses Force Base in Djibouti moves forward, it will be interesting to see whether the expansion of the base will be followed by an expansion of the functions of the base. As pointed out in a separate article, Japanese military activities in Eastern Africa are a significant element in Abe’s “historical mission” to amend the Japanese Constitution. In recent years, the Abe Administration has used counter-piracy operations in the Western Indian Ocean, peacekeeping operations on the African continent, emergency evacuation operations from Africa countries, and multilateral exercise in Djibouti to advance incremental changes in Japanese security policy. The Japanese Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti enables these kinds of activities in Africa and the Middle East. The base therefore serves a higher political purpose. It is an important mechanism for advancing the normalization agenda of the Abe Administration. In this light, the expansion of the base not only provides an opportunity to further expand the functions of the base beyond support for counter-piracy operations. It also provides an opportunity to further normalize Japanese security policy beyond the reforms that have already taken place.

Michael Edward Walsh is a Research Fellow for African Studies at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS. This article is derived from his ongoing research project on counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.

Note: An edited version of this article was re-published by DefenceWeb – Africa’s Leading Defence News Portal.

Making Hilton Head Island Vision 2030 a Reality – Tina Gentry

The Islands Society is pleased to recognize Tina Gentry as its Hilton Head Island Vision 2030 voice of the month. Gentry was raised in Beaufort, South Carolina, and graduated from the University of South Carolina with degrees in business administration and finance. Before accepting the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of the Lowcountry in 2011, Gentry worked as the Vice-President of patient access and sustainable resources for Four Seasons in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

One of guiding principles of the Hilton Head Island Vision 2030 is “working together and volunteering for the greater good of the Hilton Head Island Community.” Why is this guiding principle important moving into the future?

In order to create positive lasting change, it is imperative that members of a community clearly see ways that they can become a part of making that vision a reality. Progress is realized when people work together toward shared goals.

Is Hilton Head Island currently in a position to fulfill this guiding principle? If not, what needs to be done to position the island to accomplish this goal?

I absolutely believe that Hilton Head Island is positioned to fulfill this guiding principle. The diversity of the people who call the Island home is one of the Island’s greatest strengths. The collective wisdom that comes from resident’s experiences and knowledge is an incredible asset for any type of community change. Hilton Head has experienced many successes because individuals come together and work for the greater good.

How is United Way of the Lowcountry contributing to accomplishing the aforementioned guiding principle?

The United Way of the Lowcountry’s history is deep-rooted in people working together and volunteering. In fact, our agency exists today because a group of local business leaders, in 1958, recognized needs in the community and came together to raise money for agencies and services to fulfill those needs.

The United Way’s current Community Impact work can only be accomplished because stakeholders truly had a voice in the issues that will be addressed. They have a common understanding of those issues and a clear discernment of how it takes everyone working together to achieve positive change, which can be measured through common outcomes.

Having grown up in Beaufort, you’re now in a position as CEO of United Way of the Lowcountry to make far-reaching positive changes in the region. What sort of changes do you envision?

We are all so blessed to live in the beautiful Lowcountry where so many positive initiatives for change are taking place. There are a number of improvements that I would personally like to see including the following:

  • Every child in Beaufort and Jasper Counties should be provided with the opportunity to develop the foundation that allows them to succeed in school, resulting in a minimum of 80% of children entering the 4th grade functioning at grade level.
  • All residents of Beaufort and Jasper Counties should have: access to safe, affordable housing options; convenient access to, and knowledge of, comprehensive healthcare; and economic opportunities through diversified and meaningful employment options that allow for financial and family stability.

Why are nonprofit organizations vital to creating a sense of identity?

Most people are innately wired to connect with a purpose. They are passionate about any number of issues. When people are connected to organizations and feel passionate about the mission their involvement fuels the agency. Those people who become champions and supporters of an agency’s mission through volunteering, donating or both take pride in their involvement in that agency and its work becomes a part of their identity.

Finally, if you could add one additional guiding principle to the Hilton Head Island Vision 2030, what would it be?

I believe that the guiding principles for Hilton Head Island’s Vision 2030 are very comprehensive. The process that was used to identify these principles appears thorough and I trust that process. Therefore, I have no additions. I do look forward to seeing the guiding principles lived out on Hilton Head Island.

 


Tina Gentry is the President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of the Lowcountry.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: Alistair Nicol (Flickr CC)

Official Statement on Paris Attacks from the Islands Society

Friday 13th is a lucky day according to French tradition. Last night, friends and families were enjoying a deserved rest after a tiring week. No one could have imagined that just another day was about to turn into a nightmare.

As we now know, blind violence struck Paris last night. Six attacks across the city killed over 120 people. Hundreds more were injured. And the rest of us were traumatized.

Today, the entire country woke up dizzy and stunned. As a French citizen, I would like thank everyone who has expressed their solidarity with our people. Your words of encouragement really do matter. They stand as testament that we are not alone.

Whatever the reasons given, whatever the demands expressed, there can be no justifications for such savagery. But, we will not succumb to fear. We will stand united against barbarism. We will fight for a world where mutual respect is the norm. That is how we honor the victims.

Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!

Laurent Ajdnik is a member of the Board of Directors at the Islands Society. He is also a partner at a business strategy consulting firm in Lyon, France.

Security Threats in the Pacific Essay Competition: Selected Essays

A few months ago, the Islands Society issued an open call to young scholars across the Pacific Islands region to submit an essay on a contemporary security challenge facing the region. Specifically, we asked them to answer: “What is the biggest security threat facing Pacific Islanders today?” In the end, we received submissions from five countries across the region. These submissions were then reviewed by our staff and the selected essays were professionally edited.

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