Japan will send a warship and patrols to protect Japanese ships in the Middle East, as the situation in the region, which is the source of about 90% of its imports of crude oil, remains volatile, the chief government spokesman said on Friday.
According to the plan approved by the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a destroyer equipped with helicopters and two patrol aircraft will be dispatched to gather information in order to ensure safe passage of Japanese ships through the region. In the event of any emergencies, a special order will be issued by the Japanese Minister of Defense to allow the forces to use weapons to protect ships at risk.
The Chief Cabinet Secretary said at a press conference that peace and stability in the Middle East are extremely important to the peace and prosperity of the international community including Japan, and it is also important to ensure that ships related to Japan can sail safely in the Middle East, the world’s main energy source.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have increased since last year, when US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 and reimposed sanctions, which hampered its economy.
In May and June, there were several attacks on international commercial ships in the region, including a Japanese oil tanker, which the United States blamed on Iran, while Tehran denied the accusations.
The oil importers welcomed the government’s decision, and the President of the Japanese Petroleum Association said in a statement that the situation in the Middle East is still not expected, and added that he believed that the decision taken under these circumstances would benefit the safe passage of ships in the region.
Abe had met last week with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, against the background of commitment to the international nuclear deal.
Japanese Prime Minister demands Iran to adhere to the nuclear agreement
The planned operation will cover the high seas in the Gulf of Oman, the northern Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. A Defense Ministry official said that the Japanese government aims to start operating the patrol aircraft next month, while the destroyer is likely to start its activities in the region in February 2020.
The decision of the Japanese government is valid for one year until December 26, 2020, and it is necessary to obtain the approval of the new cabinet to expand the activities of the armed forces in the Middle East.
A European operation to ensure safe shipping will also begin in the Gulf next month, when a French warship begins patrolling there.