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.

Islands Society Appoints CSIS Young Leader as Managing Director for Baltic Islands Society – 09/27/15

Derek Bolton to lead new effort by South Carolina nonprofit to engage islanders from the Baltic Sea as partners for public diplomacy, cultural relations, and action on climate change

Today, the Islands Society announced the appointment of Derek Bolton as Managing Director of the Baltic Islands Society. Mr. Bolton will now lead the Islands Society’s efforts to increase the participation of the residents of the Baltic Islands in foreign affairs and cultural relations through community diplomacy.

“In the last few years, the Baltic Sea has re-emerged as a potential area of concern for international peace and security,” says Keiko Ono, Vice President of the Islands Society. “It is therefore critical that we more fully engage the residents of the islands of the Baltic Sea as partners in foreign affairs and cultural relations. That is the mission of the Baltic Islands Society. And, I could think of no better person to lead such an important initiative than Derek Bolton. Not only is he widely recognized as a next generation leader on international security. As a former resident of Finland, he also understands the unique challenges faced by local island communities in the Baltic Sea.”

Over the next few months, Bolton will be responsible for drafting a strategic plan and messaging framework for the Baltic Islands Society. He will also be recruiting ambassadors, business leaders, nonprofit leaders, and senior academics from the region to serve on the Baltic Islands Society’s Board of Advisers. And, he will launch two new programs modeled on previous programs by the Pacific Islands Society.

“I am extremely excited to be able to take the reins of the newest constituent society at the Islands Society,” adds Bolton. “I believe that it is incredibly important that more local islanders in the Baltic Sea – particularly women, minorities, and next generation leaders – participate in strategic dialogues related to foreign affairs, cultural relations, and climate change. It is my hope that programs like the 2016-2017 Baltic Young Leaders on Disarmament Program and the 2016-2017 Baltic Security Scholars will provide islanders in the Baltic Sea with a platform to do just that.”

In 2016, the Islands Society expects Bolton to develop and implement three additional programs specifically designed for islanders in the Baltic Sea. He will also be responsible for promoting new relations between islanders on the Baltic Sea and those on islands served by the other constituent societies.

“I am excited about the opportunity to partner with the managing directors of the Pacific Islands Society and Sea Islands Society. For example, consider the 2016 Baltic Islands Security Scholars program. Next year, the Pacific Islands Society will be running the 2016 Pacific Islands Security Scholars, and the Sea Islands Society will be launching the 2016 Sea Islands Security Scholars. In the past, these programs would have been stand-alone programs in their respective communities. However, the Islands Society realizes that we have the opportunity to not only help the participants grow their networks within their programs. We also have the opportunity to create networks between programs.”

“In my opinion, the ability to inter-network our programs will be of huge value to the participants in our programs for islands in the Baltic Sea,” opines Ono. “Imagine, the Baltic Islands Society can do more than just help a participant in Poel connect with a participant in their program from Mariehamn or their mentor in the program who is working in Geneva. In partnership with the Sea Islands Society and Baltic Islands Society, they can also help the participant connect with those in our programs in other regions of the world. In this way, a participant in Helsinki might establish important connections in Pago or Hilton Head Island without ever having to step foot in either place.”

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to respect, inspire, and empower islanders around the world. These projects are currently organized around two main themes: community projects and next generation leaders. The community projects center on ten issue areas, including charity, conservation, democracy, disaster relief, education, equality, health, innovation, security, and sustainability. Meanwhile, the next generation leader projects support artists, athletes, chefs, incubators, musicians, policymakers, storytellers, and technologists. The Islands Society is based on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

Website: www.islandssociety.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Islands-Society/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/islandssociety

Baltic Islands Society

The Baltic Islands Society is one of seven constituent societies of the Islands Society. Its primary mission will be to develop and implement programs that enable individuals and sub-national organizations from island communities on the Baltic Sea to more fully participate in international relations. Specifically, the society develops and implements programs that provide women, ethnic minorities, and the next generation of leaders from island communities on the Baltic Sea with the knowledge, networks, platforms, and exposure required to realize their full potential as artists, athletes, chefs, designers, educators, musicians, nurses, scholars, policymakers, scientists, technologists, etc. From 2016 onward, the Baltic Islands Society will be based in Turku, Finland.

Website: http://islandssociety.org/subsocieties/baltic-sea-islands-society/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Baltic-Islands-Society-369969749780661

Twitter: http://twitter.com/baltic_islands

About Derek Bolton

Derek Bolton is the Managing Director of the Baltic Islands Society and a Young Leader at Pacific Forum CSIS. Prior to pursing a PhD at the University of Bath (United Kingdom), he served as a Research Associate at Global Co Lab Network, where he worked to foster greater international cooperation within the Science and Technology (S&T) field between American and European researchers and implementers. Earlier in his career, he served as a Junior Research Fellow at the American Security Project and worked on science engagement with CRDF Global. An American citizen, Bolton was previously a permanent resident of Finland. He received his MSc in International Relations and International Military Security from the Universiteit van Amsterdam (Netherlands) and his BA in Politics and History from the University College Cork (Ireland).