Japan may again send MSDF patrol aircraft for anti-piracy mission off Somalia

Kyodo

Japan will consider deploying Maritime Self-Defense Force P-3C patrol aircraft again to the multinational anti-piracy operations off Somalia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, according to Japanese officials.

In a Sunday meeting with Vice Adm. John Miller, commander of the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet, in Bahrain, Abe said it is very important to contribute to the international community’s efforts with the dispatch of the MSDF aircraft. Miller lauded the plane’s capabilities, the officials said.

The Japanese government decided in July that an MSDF escort vessel will join a combined operation from December involving countries that include the United States, Britain and Australia to prevent pirates from approaching commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden.

The government maintains that MSDF participation in the joint mission will not contravene its long-standing interpretation that Japan cannot exercise the right to collective self-defense under the pacifist Constitution, as anti-piracy activities are limited to “the use of police authority.”

Japan’s anti-piracy mission off Somalia began in 2009. Two MSDF escort vessels and two P-3C patrol planes are deployed in the operation.

In his talks with Miller, Abe also said ensuring stability in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz is vital to Japan and the world economy. The strait is one of the busiest shipping lanes for crude oil and Japan heavily depends on the Middle East for crude oil imports.

Abe is in Bahrain on the first leg of a six-day trip through Thursday that also includes visits to Kuwait, Qatar and Djibouti.

On Saturday, Abe met with his Bahrain counterpart, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, and agreed to resume a ministerial strategic dialogue between Japan and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September, the officials said.

The six GCC countries are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Khalifa said Bahrain will scrap its restrictions on food imports from Japan that were imposed following the start of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011 and Abe expressed his gratitude, they said.