Support for the EU’s Operation Atalanta, monitoring of UN sanctions against North Korea and joint exercises with partners in the Indo-Pacific – all of this will form part of the frigate Bayern’s six-month patrol and training mission to Asia, which begins on 2 August. The German navy personnel on board will take on a wide range of different tasks. And they will do so with one goal in mind: strengthening security policy cooperation with partners in the Indo-Pacific region. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas commented on the frigate’s departure:
“The Indo-Pacific is where the international order of the future will be decided. We want to help shape it and to take on responsibility for upholding the rules‑based international order. This is why we are helping to monitor the UN sanctions against North Korea and expanding our partnerships and our involvement in the region, including through the EU’s Strategic Partnership with ASEAN and consultations on security policy with Japan and Australia. And this is why the frigate Bayern is setting sail for Asia today. Its mission is to support us in upholding international law and improving security in the Indo-Pacific together with our partners.”
Helping to strengthen international law
Around 230 crew members are on board the frigate Bayern. During its journey, they will dock at several ports in partner countries and take part in international missions. They will also be responsible for maritime monitoring of the sanctions against North Korea. The aim of these sanctions is to induce North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programme. The UN Security Council tightened the sanctions further in 2017, expanding them to cover shipments of oil and refined petroleum products. The Bayern will carry out sea surveillance to prevent these sanctions from being circumvented by cargo transfers on the high seas. In addition, it will support NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian to strengthen maritime security in the Mediterranean and the EU’s Operation Atalanta to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa.
The frigate will also cross the South China Sea. Germany regularly underlines the significance of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as a comprehensive, universally recognised legal framework, particularly its provisions on freedom of navigation in international waters, as well as the obligatory mechanisms for the settlement of disputes.
Implementing the policy guidelines on the Indo-Pacific region
The Indo-Pacific is increasingly becoming a political and economic centre of gravity. It will have a decisive impact on the shape of the international order in the coming years. In September 2020, the Federal Government approved new policy guidelines on the Indo-Pacific in order to strengthen Germany’s presence in the region. The two central pillars of this strategy are the diversification of economic partnerships and the strengthening of international law, multilateral cooperation and security policy collaboration in the region. On 1 August, Germany will accede to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). It has also held ministerial consultations on security policy with key partners Japan and Australia. Its strategic partnership with Australia has become an Enhanced Strategic Partnership. In December 2020, during Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the EU and ASEAN upgraded their relations to a Strategic Partnership. Germany is also advocating a European Indo-Pacific strategy.