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The Self-Defense Forces will be allowed to open fire on pirate boats defying warnings to stop approaching civilian vessels under a provision to be included in the planned antipiracy bill, a project team of the ruling coalition agreed.

The government has been asked to make final adjustments so that together with the ruling coalition it can next week endorse the bill designed to authorize the dispatch of Maritime Self-Defense Force ships off Somalia on an antipiracy mission.

The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc asked the government to outline the bill by March 4.

The project team is aiming to have the bill approved by the Cabinet on March 10.

The government plans to allow MSDF destroyers to protect non-Japanese ships from pirates only if such vessels join Japan-linked ships escorted by the destroyers, or if they happen to be near the site of pirate attacks on non-Japanese ships.

Under the envisioned law, the government plans to allow weapons to be used for self-defense and emergency evacuations, as stipulated by the police duty performance law, like the maritime police action under the SDF Law.

The provision enabling the SDF to open fire on pirate boats would cover situations when pirates defy warning shots or cautions issued through radio communications, and apply only when there is no other way of stopping them and it is deemed reasonable and necessary.

A senior New Komeito lawmaker insisted “the aim of creating the provision is to keep pirates away,” but the opposition parties, which oppose the antipiracy dispatch, are expected to denounce the move as paving the way for a more wide-ranging use of weapons.

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