Japan considers joining fight against Somali pirates

December 25th, 2008 - 2:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Tokyo, Dec 25 (DPA) Japan is considering sending warships to the Gulf of Aden to join international efforts to combat piracy in the region, officials said Thursday.Government spokesman Takeo Kawamura said the government might send a destroyer to the region off the Somali coast to prevent pirate attacks against Japanese ships.

However, Japan’s administration is divided over the move, media reports said, and Prime Minister Taro Aso has not made a final decision.

If dispatched, it would be the first time that Japan’s Self-Defence Forces would join a policing operation in international waters.

Kawamura said that under current rules, the Japanese navy could only protect Japanese ships or “other vessels related to Japan”.

“It will be necessary to consider how to handle the point and how we can ensure it in a law. We are asking the project teams in the ruling parties to consider the issue,” he said.

An investigation into the pirates’ activities was necessary prior to a decision, as the defence ministry had insufficient information, Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency.

In 2008, pirates seized more than 200 ships in the waters off the Horn of Africa, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, holding them and their crews for ransom.

Aso recently called for involvement of the Japanese navy in the fight against the pirates, Kyodo said.

In December, the UN Security Council extended its authorization for countries to enter Somalia’s waters to stop acts of piracy for another year.

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