Japan to send helicopter-carrying destroyer: ずくなしの冷や水


Japan to send helicopter-carrying destroyer


毎日会員限定有料記事 毎日新聞2019年12月27日 21時14分(最終更新 12月27日 21時14分)
海自中東派遣 「中立の印象悪化し活動困難に」「過激派が悪用」専門家ら懸念

Japan to send helicopter-carrying destroyer & spy planes to ensure ‘safe passage’ of oil from increasingly crowded Middle East
The Japanese PM’s cabinet approved a plan to send warship and surveillance planes to the Middle East, framing the controversial mission as “study and research activities” separate from the US’ initiative to contain Iran.

Tokyo is expected to send a destroyer with 200 crew members and carrying up to two patrol helicopters alongside two P-3C anti-submarine patrol airplanes to the Gulf of Oman sometime in February for a year-long mission.

The deployment is styled as a “study and research” mission to ensure “safe passage” for Japanese vessels through the region from which Tokyo receives 90 percent of its oil imports. However, in case of “unexpected developments,” local media reports, a special order might be issued by the Japanese defense minister to allow the ‘Self-Defense Force’ to use weapons.

The possibility of Japanese deployment to the region was first voiced after a Japanese oil tanker came under attack in June – which, by pure coincidence, occurred just as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

Washington blamed Tehran for that and other attacks, pitching the idea of a maritime ‘policing’ mission but finding little enthusiasm among its allies. Besides Bahrain and the UAE, only the UK agreed to send a couple of destroyers after an embarrassing incident when it tried to seize an Iranian tanker under a bogus pretext only to get its own vessel impounded in a tit-for-tat response. Saudi Arabia joined the naval alliance after a drone attack – which was also pinned on Iran – targeted a major oil facility in the country. In addition, Australia promised to join next year and the US says it’s only a “matter of time” until Qatar and Kuwait also join.

France, in the meantime, is spearheading a European-led mission independent of the US-led maritime initiative, as the US failed to convince European allies that its gunboat diplomacy was indeed only aimed at ‘protecting’ crucial waterways rather than enforcing Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Iran.

Japan Okays First-Ever Post-WWII Military Deployment to Protect Middle East Oil Route - Report
Tokyo began to express concerns over security in the Middle East after one of its tankers was damaged in an apparent sabotage attack during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s peacemaking trip to Tehran this past summer.

Japan’s cabinet of ministers has approved the deployment of the country’s Maritime Self-Defence Force to the Middle East, with the mission said to be the first of its kind since legislation expanding the military’s right to operate abroad stepped into effect four years ago, Kyodo News has reported, citing government sources.

The deployment, which required no parliamentary approval, is expected to include a helicopter-equipped destroyer and several Lockheed P-3C Orion patrol planes, along with about 260 naval personnel.

According to Kyodo’s sources, the operation, based in the Gulf of Oman and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, will be a “survey and research” mission aimed at ensuring security in a crucial maritime route through which as much as 90 percent of Japan’s Middle East-sourced oil passes.

The mission is limited in scope to the protection of Japanese shipping vessels, and will not see operations in the sensitive Strait of Hormuz area. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reportedly approved the mission personally during talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week. After the talks, Rouhani said that Japan had proposed possible “solutions” on how to “break” US sanctions against his country.

The Japanese military aircraft are expected to be deployed and to begin operations in January, with the destroyer to deploy a month later, in February.

Japan Says No to US Coalition

Japan had demonstrably refused to join the US-led coalition, known as the ‘Sentinel programme’, which currently includes the US, the UK, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Albania, Bahrain and the UAE, which Washington began to form during the 2019 Persian Gulf crisis amid the seizure or sabotage of tankers passing through the region.

Under Japan’s constitution, the country’s military is able to deploy for maritime policing missions in an emergency situations to protect Japanese persons or property. The constitution was amended in 2016 by Prime Minister Abe. Before then, the country’s military was limited to territorial defence operations along Japan's borders.

In June, a Japanese tanker was one of two vessels to suffer damage in the Gulf of Oman in an apparent sabotage attack in the midst of a goodwill visit to Tehran by Prime Minister Abe. The US immediately blamed Iran for the apparent sabotage attack, but Japanese officials reportedly were not convinced by the evidence Washington presented at the time.

The long-running diplomatic tiff between Iran and the US escalated into military tensions in May, when the US sent a carrier strike group to the Middle East after citing an unspecified ‘threat’ to US interests in the region. Since then, the Persian Gulf has ben wracked by a string of dangerous incidents, including a series of tanker sabotage attacks, tit-for-tat ship seizures and the destruction of a $220 million US spy drone in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
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