Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono has ordered the deployment of a warship and two P-3C patrol planes to the Middle East to protect ships bringing goods to Japan.
The order was issued on Friday January 10th. The patrol planes left Japan on Saturday and will start operations from January 20th. The destroyer will depart Japan on February 2nd and will begin patrols later in the month, Kono told reporters.
The Minister was required to issue a special order for the deployment of the forces to allow them to use weapons to protect ships in danger.
The cabinet had approved the deployment last month, but some doubt had arisen as to whether it would be implemented in the wake of the US killing of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani last week.
“Ninety percent of our oil travels through those waters and so it’s a lifeline for the Japanese economy,” Kono said to reporters.
In May and June 2019, several attacks took place on international merchant vessels in the region, including the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous. Iran denied responsibility for the attacks.
The operation is set to cover high seas in the Gulf of Oman, the northern Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, and Suga said Abe would be explaining the mission to leaders in the countries he visits.