The heightened geopolitical rivalry between US, China, and Russia has raised the strategic importance of the Strait as a vital maritime shipping route
The strait's unique geography and ocean currents make it an essential habitat for a diverse range of marine species.
The Tsushima Strait's strategic position as a gateway to the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean is among the most important factors contributing to its significance to the US.The Tsushima Strait is crucial for maintaining the region's peace and security because the US is a significant ally of Japan. The Tsushima Strait's strategic position as a gateway to the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean is among the most important factors contributing to its significance to the US. Being the entry point for the US military forces and supplies into Japan and also for the maintenance of its military presence in South Korea since the Korean War, these ports and the Strait are extremely important to the US. The latter, therefore, has an interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the strait, ensuring the safe and uninterrupted movement of its naval assets. The Strait is a crucial shipping route for China's trade with Japan, South Korea, and other regional nations. As a trading country that primarily relies on maritime transportation to get its products to markets all over the world, the strait is a vital transit route for China. The Strait is crucial for China's naval strategy in Northeast Asia as it allows Beijing to project its naval force beyond its immediate coastline. China along with Russia has repeatedly pushed the limits of freedom of navigation and maritime sovereignty in the Tsushima strait just as Beijing has done in the South and East China Seas. The Tsushima Strait is an important strategic location for Russia’s naval access to the Pacific Ocean. Due to its direct access to East Asian markets, the strait is also a significant trading route for Russia. Exports of Russian gas and oil to South Korea, China, and Japan must cross the strait to get there. The Tsushima Strait is also important for Russia's diplomatic ties with Japan. The Kuril Islands, which are managed by Russia and are located to the north of Japan, are the subject of a protracted territorial dispute between the two nations.
The Strait is crucial for China's naval strategy in Northeast Asia as it allows Beijing to project its naval force beyond its immediate coastline.
Climate change has the potential to cause significant changes to ocean currents and weather patterns, which could affect the safety and navigability of the strait.Third, North Korea's military activities pose a significant threat to the strait. The country's navy is known to conduct submarine operations in the area, and its missile tests have also been launched from the region, raising concerns about the safety of shipping in the area. Fourth, the strait is a vital fishing ground, and illegal fishing by Chinese and North Korean vessels has been a persistent problem. This not only threatens the sustainability of the fisheries but also poses risks to the safety of legitimate fishing vessels. Fifth, climate change has the potential to cause significant changes to ocean currents and weather patterns, which could affect the safety and navigability of the strait. Rising sea levels and increased storm activity could also lead to coastal erosion and damage to critical infrastructure such as ports and shipping lanes. Countries in the region have established a mechanism for the monitoring and management of marine pollution, including oil spills and other hazardous substances, including the establishment of response plans and the coordination of resources and personnel to minimize the impact of pollution on the marine environment. For boosting maritime security, a shared platform for exchanging intelligence and coordinating responses to security threats has been established by the region's nations. This includes the coordination of naval patrols and surveillance operations as well as the sharing of information on piracy, smuggling, and other security issues. The strategic importance of the Strait as a vital maritime shipping route is heightened in the context of the uncertainties posed due to geopolitical tensions between the US, China, and Russia which in turn could also intensify pre-existing tensions among Japan-ROK; Japan-Russia; and Japan-China. Ensuring safe and free passage via the Tsushima Strait is, therefore, an important component of maritime security efforts which are part of the Indo-Pacific frameworks of cooperation.
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Pratnashree Basu is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, with the CNED programme. She is a 2017 US Department of State IVLP Fellow ...Read More +