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Japan to host naval drill to thwart WMD traffic at sea

Japan will host an international drill off Tokyo Bay in October aimed at thwarting the movement of weapons of mass destruction on the high seas, the Defense Agency said Tuesday.

The agency said the Maritime Self-Defense Force will fully participate in the naval exercise for the first time.

Japan will host the drill, the first of which was held last September, within the Proliferation Security Initiative framework involving 15 participating nations.

Proposed by U.S. President George W. Bush in March 2003, the PSI calls on participant countries to develop a broad range of diplomatic, economic, legal and military measures to prevent shipments of weapons of mass destruction and missile-related equipment and technology.

“Our hosting the drill will enhance understanding by Asian nations of the need for nonproliferation, initiated by PSI, and contribute to the peace and stability of Asia,” Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba told his regularly scheduled news conference.

Agency officials said that becoming a host-nation will benefit Japan by allowing the country to draw exercise scenarios, including intercepting suspected nuclear, biological and chemical weapons cargoes, and patrolling the seas surrounding Japan.

The government plans to involve a wide range of agencies, including the Defense Agency, the Foreign Ministry, the Japan Coast Guard and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, in developing scenarios.

The current PSI participants are Japan, the U.S., Britain, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Norway, Canada, Russia and Portugal.

Ishiba said the government will invite as many neighboring countries as possible to the exercise.

There have been 10 PSI drills conducted since September. The coming exercise will be the first hosted by an Asian nation.

The MSDF attended the previous drills as an observer.

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