Richard Tanter

Richard Tanter has worked on security and environmental issues as a teacher, researcher, policy analyst, and advocate in Australia, the United States, Japan, Korea and Indonesia since the 1970s. He is currently Senior Research Associate at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, and Professorial Fellow (Honorary) in the  School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. At Melbourne University he teaches on nuclear weapons, and on East and Southeast Asian issues.

Richard has been researching a range of technical and strategic issues related to US and Australian intelligence and military facilities in Australia, including the 2012 study The “Joint Facilities” revisited – Desmond Ball, democratic debate on security, and the human interest, and he is currently completing a study of Pine Gap, North West Cape, and Geraldton, and other major facilities in Australia. With Desmond Ball, he is completing a major research study of Japanese electronic intelligence organization, part of which, The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Defence Capabilities, was recently published by ANU Press. In recent work at the Nautilus Institute he has been  working mainly on questions of East Asian nuclear deterrence and the North East Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone proposal.

Richard is a frequent commentator on international affairs in newspapers, radio and television, quoted in the New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Asahi Shimbun, Australian Financial Review, The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Tempo, Jakarta Post, ABC, BBC, VOA, Al Jazeera, Straits Times and Pravda.

The Tools of Owatatsumi »

Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities

Publication date: January 2015
Japan is quintessentially by geography a maritime country. Maritime surveillance capabilities – underwater, shore-based and airborne – are critical to its national defence posture. This book describes and assesses these capabilities, with particular respect to the underwater segment, about which there is little strategic analysis in publicly available literature. Since the end of the Cold War, Chinese oceanographic and navy vessels have intruded into Japanese waters with increasing frequency, not counting their activities in disputed waters such as around the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands and Okinotorishima where China and Japan have overlapping territorial claims. These intrusions have increasingly involved warships, including submarines, sometimes acting quite aggressively. Japan maintains an extraordinary network of undersea hydrophone arrays, connected to shore-stations which are typically equipped with electronic intelligence (ELINT) systems, for monitoring, identifying and tracking submarine and surface traffic in its internal straits and surrounding seas. Some parts of this network are operated jointly with, and are of crucial importance to, the US Navy. Japan’s superlative submarine detection capabilities would be of decisive advantage in any submarine engagement. But the relevant facilities are relatively vulnerable, which makes them very lucrative targets in any conflict. This introduces compelling escalatory dynamics, including the involvement of US forces and possible employment of nuclear options.