Staff writer

MAIZURU, Kyoto Pref. — Defense Agency Director General Hosei Norota pledged Thursday that his agency will map out an operational manual for sea patrol missions in case of possible encounters with intruding vessels.

The announcement comes a month after two boats disguised as fishing trawlers were chased out of Japanese waters. Once in international waters in the Sea of Japan, the two intruders were left to flee toward North Korea.

Speaking on board the destroyer Haruna, which chased one of the boats for nearly a full day, Norota said the patrol manual will be completed after the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s three-month exercise off Hawaii and California. The exercise begins in the middle of May.

The Aegis destroyer Myoko, which chased the other dubious trawler March 23, and two other MSDF vessels will leave Yokosuka on May 11 to try new sea-patrol tactics during the drill, Norota said.

Norota said the manual will not be referred to as Rules of Engagement. Most militaries around the world strictly follow Rules of Engagement manuals, which set forth parameters in which the use of force can be used.

But the Self-Defense Forces have never had an ROE, and Norota’s remark apparently reflects the government’s long-held stance that Japan does not possess a military.

Meanwhile, Norota said his agency and the Defense Ministry of South Korea will open a hotline May 6 to exchange military intelligence over North Korea.

Information can initially be shared between the two country’s defense councilors via telephone and fax. In late May, lines will be added to allow both countries’ navies and air forces to share intelligence.

Norota indicated that new MSDF missile boats, which will carry ship-to-ship missiles, will be deployed at Maizuru. The first two are scheduled to be completed in fiscal 2001. “We have shown our nation’s determination to the world that if (a foreign vessel invades our territory and) the Maritime Safety Agency cannot cope with the situation, the SDF will take on the job,” Norota told crew members aboard the Haruna. “This will work as a very strong deterrent against a similar possible action in the future.”

Norota left Tokyo on Wednesday for a two-day visit to review SDF responses and investigations into the March 23 incident.

On Wednesday, Norota visited the Komatsu Air Base of the Air Self-Defense Force, where two F-15 fighters were scrambled after North Korea launched four MiG-21s during the chase in the Sea of Japan.

The two nations’ warplanes never encountered each other, as the chase was broken off once the intruding boats made it to international waters.

At his request, Norota traveled from Atsugi Air Base in Kanagawa Prefecture to Komatsu Air Base on board an MSDF P3-C patrol aircraft, which was one of the three used to drop 150-kg warning bombs ahead of the two suspicious vessels during the chase.

The same crew members who joined the March 23 mission accompanied the defense chief.

After his helicopter landed on board the Haruna, which was off Maizuru Port, on Thursday, Norota reviewed a demonstration of the actions taken by the MSDF during the March chase: Mock warning shots from 5-inch guns were fired, and mock bombs were dropped in front of the Haruna from a P3-C aircraft.

The demonstration also included the firing of 7.62 mm machine guns, which the MSDF wanted to use during the chase but did not have on board.

Two other alternatives that could be used to stop intruding vessels without harming them were also demonstrated: firing ropes and spraying water. “That’s no good,” Norota said while observing the water hose. “It looks like an atomizer.”

The Haruna, the Myoko and another escort vessel were dispatched from Maizuru Port, home to the MSDF’s 3rd Fleet, to track the two small boats found in March by an Air Self-Defense Force patrol aircraft.

As the MSA patrol vessels failed to keep up with the dubious fishing trawlers and gave up the chase, the MSDF was given authority to pick it up.

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