Japan Warships to go on Somalia Anti-Piracy Mission

Japan is expected to deploy two warships to pirate-infested waters off Somalia as the government tries to push through legislation to allow its forces more scope for armed response.

Two destroyers will set sail for the world’s most dangerous waters near the Gulf of Aden where U.S., European and Chinese vessels have already been sent to fend off pirates who attacked more than 100 ships last year. The mission has divided opinion in Japan, where under the post-World War II pacifist constitution, troops in international disputes can only use force for self defense and to protect Japanese nationals. Prime Minister Taro Aso’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party this week agreed legislation to pave the way for the mission and to give its roughly 400-strong crew an expanded mandate on when and how to use force. The proposal would allow Japanese forces to open fire on pirate vessels that don’t obey repeated orders to stop. It would also allow them for the first time to protect non-Japanese vessels, citizens and cargo from pirates. The government is expected to approve the bill and submit it to parliament Friday, the same day defense minister Yasukazu Hamada plans to order the dispatch of the destroyers. Last month about 240 officers took part in a one-day drill off southern Hiroshima prefecture where a destroyer repelled a mock pirate ship from accosting a Japanese commercial vessel and arrested the pretend pirates.

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