- - - - - - download - - - - - -
Since the end of the Cold War the focus of concerns about maritime security has shifted from the threat of disruption to seaborne trade resulting from armed interstate conflict at sea towards threats posed by non-state actors in the form of piracy, illegal fishing, smuggling of people, drugs and arms and, particularly since September 2001, terrorism. There is good reason for this concern. The incidence of piracy, notably in Southeast Asian waters, has increased significantly, particularly since the 1997-8 Asian financial crisis. The International Maritime Bureau's annual piracy report for 2002 recorded a worldwide total of 370 attacks in 2002 compared with 335 in 2001. The highest number of attacks occurred in Indonesian waters (International Chamber of Commerce 2003). Terrorists have demonstrated dramatically the feasibility of attacking ships in ports or at sea with the suicide boat attacks against the USS Cole in the port of Aden in October 2000 and the attack against the French-registered tanker Limburg in the Gulf of Aden two years later. It would not be beyond the means of a well-organised terrorist group to use the tools and methods of Southeast Asia's pirates to attack shipping in the narrow waters of the Malacca, Sunda or Lombok Straits and cause major disruption to the maritime commerce on which the economies of Northeast Asia are so heavily dependent. Even more worrying is the prospect of terrorists using a ship as a delivery vehicle for weapons of mass destruction, detonating such a device in one of the major port cities in Asia such as Singapore, Hong Kong or Tokyo. Attacks of this kind could seriously undermine the prospects for continued economic growth in China, Taiwan and South Korea and economic recovery in Japan by raising the cost of imported raw materials. With China's economic growth increasingly serving as a major source of growth not only for the other Northeast Asian economies but also for the United States, Europe and Australasia, a terrorist attack on shipping in the chokepoints of Southeast Asia could have negative repercussions for the world economy as a whole...