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 Official Blog of Ambassador David Shinn Features Articles by Michael Edward Walsh – 11/24/17

On 24 November 2017, The Official Blog of Ambassador David Shinn featured a number of articles by Michael Edward Walsh that were originally published on the Africa Security Monitor as part of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative.

Website: The Official Blog of Ambassador David Shinn

About Michael Edward Walsh
Michael Edward Walsh is a research fellow for African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Separately, he is also president of the Islands Society and director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative. Over the last decade, Mr. Walsh’s work has appeared in dozens of international news outlets and think tank publications. He has also received a number of awards, including the Vivian Award from the National Press Club and a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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: Department of State via Flickr CC

DefenceWeb Features Analysis of Japanese Military Base in Djibouti by Michael Edward Walsh – 11/24/17

On 24 November 2017, DefenceWeb published analysis on the upcoming expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti by Michael Edward Walsh. The report was also featured on the Africa Security Monitor as part of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative.

Downloadable Copies: Islands Society & DefenceWeb

About Michael Edward Walsh
Michael Edward Walsh is a research fellow for African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Separately, he is also president of the Islands Society and director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative. Over the last decade, Mr. Walsh’s work has appeared in dozens of international news outlets and think tank publications. He has also received a number of awards, including the Vivian Award from the National Press Club and a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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: OMBAI

USC Center on Public Diplomacy Features Analysis of Djibouti Regional Training Center by Michael Edward Walsh – 11/24/17

On 15 November 2017, the USC Center on Public Diplomacy published analysis on the Djibouti Regional Training Center (DRTC) by Michael Edward Walsh. The report was also featured on the Africa Security Monitor as part of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative.

Downloadable Copies: Center on Public Diplomacy & Islands Society

About Michael Edward Walsh
Michael Edward Walsh is a research fellow for African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Separately, he is also president of the Islands Society and director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative. Over the last decade, Mr. Walsh’s work has appeared in dozens of international news outlets and think tank publications. He has also received a number of awards, including the Vivian Award from the National Press Club and a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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: IMO UN via Flickr CC

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.

Djibouti: Renewed Interest in Maritime Security Facility Next to Chinese Base – Michael Edward Walsh

Thanks to millions of dollars in funding from the government of Japan, the Djibouti Regional Training Center (DRTC) opened its doors two years ago. However, the facility has gone largely unused since then. That may be about to change.

In recent weeks, the government of Djibouti has expressed a renewed interest in making use of the facility as a meeting space for events related to the Djibouti Code of Conduct. If this happens, the facility’s potential will finally start to be realized.

History of the Djibouti Regional Training Center (DRTC)

On October 29, 2011, the foundation stone for the DRTC was laid by the president of the Republic of Djibouti and the director of the Maritime Safety Division at the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Funded through the IMO Djibouti Code of Conduct Trust Fund, the new facility was intended to promote successful implementation of the Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. Specifically, it was intended to provide a meeting space for events related to the Djibouti Code of Conduct and office space for coordinating similar events across the region.

On November 12, 2015, the $2.5 million facility was officially opened by Djibouti’s minister of equipment and transport. Although not in attendance, the IMO secretary-general addressed the attendees by way of video. According to him, the facility “should be an asset to Djibouti and to the region for many years to come.” However, the IMO secretary-general recognized that the government of Djibouti would need “to be imaginative in its use of the new building and to be proactive in maximizing its potential, for the benefit of the whole region” in order to realize the facility’s full potential.

Since the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the facility has gone largely unused.

Although the facility boasts one of the best conference auditoriums in the country, it has only hosted a handful of events. According to some experts, this is because of a lack of funding for events and basic infrastructure problems at the facility. According to others, it is because of serious limitations placed on access to the facility during the construction of the Chinese military base next door. Whatever the reasons, the facility has not played the “key role in regional capacity-building initiatives under the Code of Conduct” originally envisioned by the IMO.

Conference on the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC Conference)

On October 29, 2017, the DCoC Conference was held at the DRTC. It included delegations from Djibouti, the European Union, France, Japan, the United States and Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development. It also included speakers from the IMO and the Interregional Maritime Safety Institute, among others.


If the DRTC becomes useless, it would not just harm the reputation of the government of the Djibouti as an aid recipient: it would also harm the reputation of the IMO as an aid organization.

Although most of the presentations focused on specific regional maritime security issues, the conference included a presentation on the facility’s potential. After these presentations, the DRTC director took attendees on a guided tour of the facility. During the tour, she noted that the government of Djibouti was interested in putting the facility to greater use, but it lacked the funds to do so. So, she appealed to attendees to find ways to fund future programming at the facility.

The DCoC Conference is a sign that the government of Djibouti is interested in more fully realizing the potential of the DRTC. It also shows that the government is willing to make use of the facility as a meeting space for events related to the Djibouti Code of Conduct. This is an important development because the facility has hosted only one other major event over the past two years and none since completion of the Chinese military base, and some experts have started to question whether the government of Djibouti is at all interested in making use of the facility now that the Chinese base is next door.

Future of the DRTC

There is an old Afar proverb that goes, “A son can be difficult in three ways. Either he isn’t born, or being born dies, or grows up and becomes useless.”

If the DRTC becomes useless, it would not just harm the reputation of the government of the Djibouti as an aid recipient: it would also harm the reputation of the IMO as an aid organization. For this reason, many will welcome the news that the government of Djibouti is interested in more fully utilizing the facility as a meeting space for events related to the Djibouti Code of Conduct.

However, it will take more than just an expression of interest to more fully utilize the facility as a meeting space. As the DCoC Conference shows, the government of Djibouti will require additional funding from foreign donors to support programming at the facility, and these foreign donors will need reassurances that the government will make proper use of those funds to deliver that programming.

It therefore remains difficult to predict what the future holds for the DRTC. For now, the IMO can only hope that the DRTC will become an important asset for Djibouti and the region in the years to come.

Note: This article was first published by the CPD Blog of the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California.