Japan will send Maritime Self-Defense Force units to protect Japanese ships in the Middle East, according to Reuters.
Japan’s top government spokesman said on Friday the country would send units with a warship and patrol planes to the Middle East early next year.
The main goal of the squad would be to gather the information that “directly impacts the security of vessels navigating” in the region, said the Japanese cabinet under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“Peace and stability in the Middle East is extremely important for the peace and prosperity of the international community including Japan,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a news conference.
“Also, it is very important to make sure Japan-related ships can sail safely in the Middle East, the world’s major source of energy,” Suga added, referring to the fact that Japan imports around 90 percent of its crude oil from the Middle East,
Why It Matters
Japan’s decision to send MSDF units to the Middle East, in waters near Iran, came amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran.
The Middle East region saw a series of attacks on international merchant vessels between May and June this year. The U.S. accused Iran of masterminding the attacks and threatened to raise the issue at the United Nations.
Japanese tanker Kokuka Courageous was among the vessels attacked in the Gulf of Oman.
Japan was under rising pressure from the United States to play a more active role in the region. But the country maintained a friendly relationship with Iran and chose not to join the US-led military coalition to protect strategic waters in the Persian Gulf.
“It’s a product of compromise,” profession Kazuto Suzuki of Hokkaido University told The Wall Street Journal. He said Japan chose to launch its own operation “to meet the two demands of the situation—meeting the request of America while not provoking Iran.”