A Maritime Self-Defense Force unit currently deployed in the Middle East will not take part in any exercise of force by the U.S. military there, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday.
While the MSDF unit will provide information to the U.S. military around once in a day, it will “not come under the (U.S.) command in military operations,” Abe told a meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives.
Opposition heavyweight Katsuya Okada, a former foreign minister, asked Abe if there would be a case in which an MSDF destroyer and a U.S. warship jointly responds to any suspicious ship that emerges when Japanese and U.S. vessels are sailing nearby.
Abe answered that in such a case, a Japanese destroyer could directly communicate with a U.S. warship, but would not share information that could be considered as taking part in a U.S. military operation.
A Japanese destroyer left its base in Kanagawa Prefecture for the Middle East on Sunday to join the MSDF’s first long-term intelligence-gathering mission abroad.
The 4,650-ton Takanami is scheduled to join the ongoing mission in late February. The mission commenced with the dispatch of MSDF P-3C patrol planes Jan. 20, and is aimed at ensuring the safety of Japanese-related commercial shipping in the region, according to the government.
Japan plans to rotate MSDF destroyers in three four-month tours over the course of the one-year Middle East mission, which could be extended with Cabinet approval.