Yokosuka, Kanagawa Pref. – The JS Takanami returned to the Maritime Self-Defense Force base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Tuesday from a mission in the Middle East.
The MSDF vessel was the first Japanese destroyer to carry out information-gathering activities in the Middle East to ensure sea lane safety for ships linked to Japan, based on a decision made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet late last year.
The mission has been handed over to the JS Kirisame, another MSDF destroyer.
The Takanami began its activities on the high seas in the northern Arabian Sea and other waters on Feb. 26 under Article 4 of the Defense Ministry establishment law, which calls for conducting necessary research and studies.
As part of the mission, the destroyer checked the courses of a total of some 8,000 ships traveling through the area in the period to June 9. No unusual incidents that could have triggered maritime security action based on the Self-Defense Forces law occurred during the mission.
Crew members of the Takanami took preventive measures against the novel coronavirus, such as not disembarking from the vessel while it was docked for replenishment.
At a ceremony held at the Yokosuka base after the return of the destroyer, Defense Minister Taro Kono thanked the Takanami’s crew members for their service. "I guess it was frustrating that landing was strictly restricted during the mission" due to the coronavirus pandemic, he noted.
"I'm very proud of you all for completing the mission admirably while maintaining high morale and discipline even under tough circumstances," the minister added.
Relatives of the around 200 crew members did not attend the ceremony in light of the risk of infection with the virus.
"I'm relieved that we have completed the mission safely," Capt. Yosuke Inaba, 48, told reporters after the ceremony. The captain, who is head of Escort Division 6 of the MSDF's Escort Flotilla 2, led the Middle East mission.
P-3C patrol aircraft operated by the MSDF are also engaged in the information-gathering mission in the region, as well as in antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.