MSDF to up participation off Somalia

Kyodo

The administration said Tuesday another year will be added to the Maritime Self-Defense Force mission to protect vessels from piracy off Somalia, and for the first time the MSDF will be allowed to operate jointly with multinational forces.

Under the new framework, approved by both the top security committee and the Cabinet, one of the two MSDF vessels on station there will be used for a joint operation to oversee a wider area to prevent pirates approaching commercial vessels.

The multinational forces include Britain, Australia, Turkey, South Korea and Pakistan.

Japan’s mission began in 2009 after enactment of a maritime law enabled the MSDF for the first time to provide protection to foreign commercial vessels.

To address concern that the MSDF’s participation in the joint mission with other countries will go against Japan’s ban on collective self-defense, the Defense Ministry argues that the MSDF’s activities are limited to “the use of police authority.”

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that “it is the best arrangement for now” to meet the needs of the international community.

Piracy was rampant off Somalia, with the number of pirate attacks topping 200 every year from 2009 to 2011, according to data compiled by the Defense Ministry.

Attacks have been on the decline since 2012, when the number dropped to 75, but attacks have been taking place across a broader area, making it necessary for the MSDF to cooperate more closely with other nations in large-scale defense cooperation.