Japan to Send Warship, Planes to Middle East to Protect Tankers
Japan, which imports nearly nine-tenths of its oil from the Middle East, has decided to dispatch a helicopter-carrying destroyer as well as maritime patrol aircraft to waters just south of the Strait of Hormuz, where Iran has harassed, attacked and even commandeered commercial oil tankers, one of them Japanese. Earlier this year, Japan turned down a US invitation to join a joint maritime patrol force that would protect civilian vessels transiting the contentious waterway. The destroyer and patrol aircraft will be used for monitoring and surveillance purposes and would require a special order from Japan’s defense minister to use weapons. “Peace and stability in the Middle East is extremely important for the peace and prosperity of the international community, including Japan,” Yoshihide Suga, who is chief secretary for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, said Friday during a routing press briefing. “It is also very important to make sure ships connected with Japan can sail safely in the Middle East, the world’s major source of energy.” The patrol aircraft will begin operations next month, and the destroyer will arrive on station in February, according to the Defense Ministry in Tokyo.