Globalization may be promoting the movement of people and goods
worldwide, but the spread of multinational and international crime is an
unintended side effect.
As criminals can now cross borders with greater ease, syndicates that make
secret arrangements for stowaways, or for smuggling drugs, are multiplying;
while piracy is on the rise on the high seas.
The negative side of globalization, which threatens the stability of our
lives, became more apparent after the end of the Cold War. It accelerated
after the economic crisis that shook the region in 1997 and confronted many
countries in Southeast Asia with high unemployment and social unrest.
Since then, there have been more cases of farmers sneaking into foreign
countries to work illegally and of merchants becoming involved in the
smuggling of drugs. Fishermen and soldiers, too, have turned to piracy to
earn a living.
In particular, as international crime has become more common, the
proliferation of drugs has emerged as a serious problem.
Stimulants imported into Japan come primarily from China, North Korea
and the so-called Golden Triangle straddling Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
That these drugs are able to make it into Japan is a negative byproduct of
globalization, which has seen crime become larger in scale, better organized,
and multinational in character.
A typical example is piracy, in which a ship is attacked and its cargo taken
over. The ship itself is then often disguised and resold through organizations
spanning several countries.
In many such incidents, an international syndicate pulls the strings from
behind the scenes, while Sri Lankans or ethnic minorities from countries such
as Myanmar are commonly recruited to commit the actual crime.
In 1999, acts of piracy world-wide numbered more than 300, of which 60
percent took place in the waters around Southeast Asia. Since the economic
crisis, there has been an especially sharp increase in incidents near Indonesia,
along sea routes that are important for ships heading to and from Japan.
That Japan is not invulnerable to piracy was demonstrated in 1999 by an
attack on the Japanese cargo ship Alondora Rainbow in the Strait of
Malacca, between Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula.
During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union deployed
their forces in the waters around Asia all the way to the Indian Ocean,
creating a ''sea of tension'' under their combined control.
During that time, although exchanges between the capitalist and socialist
blocs were severely limited, in terms of both people and trade, those
restrictions had the effect of curbing international crime.
After the Cold War, however, a ''sea of peace'' emerged in Asia, and the
ensuing tide toward liberalization and democratization stimulated trade and
made it possible for people to cross borders freely at the same time -
spawning a new set of problems.
To counter these new problems, countries must first cooperate with respect
to international crime. As soon as a crime crosses a border, it leaps from
being a domestic problem to an international issue, making it difficult for
each country to fight it individually.
Both piracy and drug smuggling take advantage of this limitation on
The Japan Coast Guard and the Nippon Foundation worked to convene an
international conference on counter-piracy measures in Asia, first held in
2000. The conference deserves credit for offering a venue for the exchange
of information, as well as reaffirming the determination of concerned nations
not to let pirates go free.
Meanwhile, the Japan Coast Guard has also begun joint exercises with
India and Malaysia.
With regard to drugs, every year the National Police Agency contributes to
the strengthening of international cooperation by sponsoring the Asia-Pacific
Operational Drug Enforcement Conference, and running the Seminar on the
Control of Drug-related Crimes.
Just such exchanges of information and confidence-building among the
law-enforcement parties concerned are required in the battle against piracy
and drugs. This, too, is a field in which Japan is well-placed to take the
The spread of information and education is a key factor in the battle to
curb international crime, as well, since piracy, drug-running and traffic in
human beings are all highly organized crimes.
Media reports on international crime that highlight actual conditions will
help get the governments of Asian countries moving. Reports on piracy are a
good example, and should be encouraged, as they tend to encourage
international crackdowns against such offenses.
To counter this new set of transnational problems, measures must be taken
to alleviate poverty, which is the root cause of international crime. Because
of poverty, acts of piracy are committed; drugs are produced; and the traffic
in human beings, or smuggling of people, occurs.
To counter international crimes triggered by poverty, a long-term effort to
eradicate the cause is essential. Japan needs to consider making use of the
government's overseas development assistance program to target areas where
piracy abounds, or villages where drugs are produced.
By persisting on such a course with patience, it is to be hoped that piracy
will dwindle and drug production will be stopped.