Senior leaders from 23 international navies met at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) 2023 Workshop at the Peruvian Naval School in La Punta, Lima.
The objective of the academic event was to address the strengthening of interoperability and cooperation of institutions in the Pacific Ocean.
“The Pacific is an enormous body of water that we have to take care of and protect,” Lieutenant Commander José Miguel Sazo Garrido, deputy chief of the Department of International Affairs of the Chilean Navy’s General Staff, who attended the meeting, told Diálogo on October 15. “We agree that it is a key zone in terms of communication, transport, trade, and also from the point of view of the ecosystem and marine resources, so its protection must be given at these different levels.”
Delegations from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and the United States, among others, attended the symposium. Observers from Ecuador, India, the Netherlands, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka were also present.
During the late August event, participants updated procedures in the event of unplanned encounters at sea, response to natural disasters, and the current statutes of the symposium. Topics such as experience exchanges and aspects of interoperability were also discussed, aimed at building confidence among navies.
In addition, attendees discussed the exchange of junior officers, the emerging leaders interaction program, and the Symposium’s Disaster Response Guide, among others, the Peruvian government said.
“The junior officer interaction program was a much discussed and attended topic at the symposium,” Lt. Cmdr. Sazo said. “Here, young officers who will be the future leaders of their navies were able to share experiences, create communication and interaction networks, which will later serve them to have a technical channel to be able to develop different activities and strengthen trust and ties early on.”
Recognizing that cooperation in the Pacific transcends the navies that were present, the Netherlands expressed its intention to be part of the meeting on future occasions and to cooperate with disaster response.
“This meeting serves to sow peace and stability at the regional level,” Pedro Yaranga, a Peruvian international analyst, told Diálogo. “Some Pacific countries are projecting that in the next 10 to 20 years they are going to face a much more sophisticated crime that is going to use cutting-edge technology.”
In turn, Australia proposed the adoption of a code of unplanned encounters at sea for naval units, so that, in the event that a unit is operating in a certain area and encounters another, they can avoid collisions or interference and accidents.
Although it was not the main topic of the symposium, the fight against drug trafficking was addressed by the Colombian Navy. The South American naval institution presented its strategy, actions, and available means to confront this threat, which gave rise to a dialogue among the navies.
This was the Colombian Navy’s first participation in the symposium, after it was approved as a full member of the forum during the previous edition in Yokohama, Japan, the Colombian Navy said via Facebook.
“This type of meeting serves to strengthen the response to crimes such as drug trafficking, which is growing in the world,” Yaranga said. “The trafficking of synthetic drugs, besides being much more harmful, are cheaper and easier to transport via sea to different markets.”
“Here in the region, [criminal groups] the Red Command and the First Capital Command have dominated more than 80 percent of Brazil’s drug trafficking. Drug traffickers go out through the Atlantic, but they want to branch out to the entire Pacific as well. This is what drug traffickers are most interested in at the moment,” Yaranga added. “So, this symposium makes sense in order to obtain greater coordination, which allows us to face these threats as a bloc.”
Host Peruvian Navy Luis Del Carpio concluded the event thanking all the navies for their attendance.
“The fact that the symposium was held in Peru is an important sign for the country, given its central location in the Pacific,” Yaranga said. “This should be taken as an example for Latin American governments to follow, to make political decisions and fight transnational organized crime together.”
“The most interesting and enriching thing from my point of view, was the interaction that took place with the other navies and officers; not only in official activities but also in hallway meetings, lunches, etc.,” Lt. Cmdr. Sazo said. “Everything served to strengthen trust and friendships and we all realized that we have common challenges in this great region that is the Pacific.”