Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, says he will go ahead and send military personnel to the Middle East to protect Japanese shipping in the Gulf. “We plan to dispatch Self-Defense Forces to this region to strengthen information-gathering and secure the safe passage of Japan-related ships,” Abe said on Monday at a televised news conference, standing by a plan laid out before Mideast tensions flared anew over the weekend following a US drone attack that killed one of the most powerful military men in Iran. Last summer, at least one Japanese oil tanker was targeted by the Islamic Republic in a campaign of attacks and harassment against commercial vessels transiting the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Tokyo said in mid-December that it would dispatch a helicopter-carrying destroyer and two maritime patrol aircraft to the region. Abe, however, did not ignore the most recent developments. “Tensions are rising in the Middle East and I am deeply worried. Further escalation should be avoided and I call on all parties concerned to exhaust all diplomatic effort to ease tensions,” he told reporters during a visit to Ise, a coastal city in central Japan.
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