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Remarks by Japanese Prime Minister Abe at the Shangri-La Dialogue

Author: Shinzo Abe
Published May 30, 2014

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe gave the keynote address to the Shangri-La Dialogue (Asia Security Summit) in Singapore on May 30, 2014. He spoke about resolving maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas, strengthening ASEAN and international defense forces, and making military budgets transparent. The conference is organized by International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).


Now, my first central point for today, that is that we must observe international law.

International law prescribes the order governing the seas. Its history is long indeed, stretching back to the days of ancient Greece, we are told. By Roman times, the seas were already kept open to all, with personal possession and partitioning of the sea prohibited. Ever since what is known as the Age of Exploration, large numbers of people have come together by crossing the seas, and marine-based commerce has connected the globe. The principle of freedom on the high seas came to be established, and the seas became the foundation for human prosperity.

As history moved on, the wisdom and the practical experiences of a great many people involved with the sea, who were at times literally caught up in rough and raging waves, accumulated into common rules. This is what we now know as the international law of the seas.

This law was not created by any particular country or countries, nor was it the product of some sort of group. Instead, it is the product of our own wisdom, cultivated over a great many years for the well-being and the prosperity of all humankind. Today, the benefits for each of us lie in the seas from the Pacific to the Indian Oceans being made thoroughly open, as a place of freedom and peace.

All of us should find one common benefit in keeping our oceans and skies as global commons, where the rule of law is respected throughout, to the merit of the world and humankind.

The rule of law at sea: Three principles

Now, when we say "the rule of law at sea" -- what exactly do we mean in concrete terms? If we take the fundamental spirit that we have infused into international law over the ages and reformulate it into three principles, we find the rule of law at sea is actually a matter of common sense.

The first principle is that states shall make and clarify their claims based on international law. The second is that states shall not use force or coercion in trying to drive their claims. The third principle is that states shall seek to settle disputes by peaceful means."

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