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Abe Undeterred from Mideast Deployment Pledge

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.