Defense Minister Taro Kono observed an exercise conducted by Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel Thursday ahead of their dispatch to the Middle East on an information-gathering mission later this month.

Commanding officers — including the captain of the Takanami destroyer, which is scheduled to be sent to the region — were drilled on how to assess various situations, operate the unit and communicate in case of an emergency as part of the exercise held at the MSDF's Command and Staff College in Tokyo.

The government plans to go ahead with the mission, which is designed to help secure the safe passage of commercial ships through regional waters, despite the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran. Opposition lawmakers have called for its cancellation after Iran attacked U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday.