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Regional Maritime Security Initiative

Unsecured or ungoverned seas are potential havens for criminal or terrorist activity, providing relatively cheap and inconspicuous movement. And the thousands of miles of coastline many of us enjoy, are sometimes uninhabited and often difficult to regulate. Lloyd's of London estimates there are 89,000 ships in the world ranging from 100-ton coastal freighters to the 565,000-ton oil tanker Jahre Viking.

A Regional Maritime Security Initiative, or "RMSI", as it is abbreviated, would provide a plan of action to address these concerns. Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, first briefly mentioned RMSI in the course of his annual U.S. PACOM posture testimony to the U.S. House in March 2004.

The goal of RMSI is to develop a partnership of willing regional nations with varying capabilities and capacities to identify, monitor, and intercept transnational maritime threats under existing international and domestic laws.

This collective effort will empower each participating nation with the timely information and capabilities it needs to act against maritime threats in its own territorial seas. As always, each nation will have to decide for itself what response, if any, it will take in its own waters.

Information sharing will also contribute to the security of international seas, creating an environment hostile to terrorism and other criminal activities. Any RMSI activity in international waters will, be in accordance with existing international law.

Once a decision has been made to act against an emerging threat, maritime interdiction capabilities obviously will be required. In most instances, these will take the form of law enforcement or customs vessels, but military forces may be needed for more organized threats, especially on the high seas.

RMSI will be a partnership of regional nations who are willing to contribute their resources to enhance maritime security. It is not a treaty or an alliance. Nor will the RMSI result in a standing naval force patrolling the Pacific.

The Proliferation Security Initiative, or "PSI" and RMSI are related, but the PSI is a global effort to stem the proliferation, by any means, of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. PSI does not address other transnational threats. RMSI, on the other hand, will be focused on maritime transnational threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

Seventeen ships of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore's navies conducted a sail past 20 July 2004 as the 3 fleets kicked off Operation Malindo to provide year-round anti-piracy and anti-terrorism protection in the Strait of Malacca. At the same time the chief of Indonesia's navy played down the piracy threat in the region in a demonstration of continuing local sensitivity about international participation in patrolling local waters. Each participating navy will supply from 5 to 7 warships. A hotline has been established to provide for rapid communications, especially when a warship of one nation is in hot pursuit into waters of another partner. While rejecting international participation, Indonesia left open a willingness to accept financing, equipment and training from outside nations. On 27 Jul Malaysia and Singapore announced agreement to increase military cooperation to encompass intelligence sharing. On 09 August 2004 it was announced that Malaysia's new Coast Guard, modeled on that of the United States, will begin providing security along the Strait of Malacca in the first quarter of 2005. The new organization will assume the current duties of the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre in Kuala Lumpur (INFO, LM).



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