MSDF commemorates 50 years in ship shape

The Maritime Self-Defense Force on Sunday held Japan’s first international naval review to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

Aboard the MSDF destroyer Shirane, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, commander in chief of the SDF, viewed a fleet of battle ships anchored at Tokyo Bay that included 17 vessels from 11 foreign countries.

“In particular, we are honored with the participation of three vessels, including a submarine from Russia and a beautiful sailing ship that traveled a great distance across the Pacific Ocean from Chile,” the prime minister said in his address to the gathering.

Koizumi also touched on the MSDF’s ongoing logistic support in the U.S.-led military campaign against terrorism in the Indian Ocean and last year’s shootout between Japan Coast Guard patrol ships and a North Korean spy ship. He said he believes that multinational cooperation of defense authorities contributes to global peace and stability.

The fleet review was held under heavy security, assisted by the coast guard and police, in light of the possibility of a terrorist attack. The suspected attack against a French oil tanker in Yemen last week has made the MSDF even more cautious, a MSDF official said.

A total of 6,687 guests, including citizens chosen by lottery, participated in Sunday’s event.

The MSDF was launched in 1952 as the Maritime Patrol Force with some 6,000 personnel and a small number of ships, including some vessels on loan from the United States.

Its capabilities were enhanced during the Cold War, especially in antisubmarine strategies, and it now maintains some 120 ships and 200 aircraft.