A team from the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc gave the green light Thursday to a proposal to dispatch the Maritime Self-Defense Force to protect Japanese vessels from Somali pirates off Africa.
The mission, which will be based on a maritime police action provision in the Self-Defense Forces law, is a quick fix until a permanent antipiracy bill can be submitted and passed by the Diet.
Based on the team’s outline, Prime Minister Taro Aso will order Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada to get the MSDF prepped for the mission as early as next week. The Cabinet will then approve the dispatch once the ships are ready.
Reports have said the MSDF could arrive around March, but former Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who cochairs the antipiracy project team, said the size and departure date of the task force have not been set.
“We must swiftly proceed with our preparations, although there is a lot on the table that needs to be decided,” Nakatani said. The team’s proposal will be handed to Aso early next week.
The ministry will “quickly take action on what needs to be done,” Vice Defense Minister Kohei Masuda told reporters.
Although the MSDF has supported international military operations by providing refueling, surveillance and logistic services, its dispatch to foreign waters using the policing provision in the SDF law will be a first.
The MSDF will protect Japanese vessels and personnel on foreign ships and carriers transporting Japanese assets, the outline said. But it will not be able to protect foreign ships, even if they are under attack.