A Japanese warship has departed for the Middle East to ensure the safety of the country’s oil tankers in waters where tensions between the US and Iran are high
The destroyer Takanami with some 200 sailors left Japan’s main naval base in Yokosuka, near Tokyo. Its main task is primarily to gather intelligence in the Gulf of Oman and nearby waters.
Under the plan, the destroyer and some 200 Maritime Self-Defence Force troops will join a pair of P-3C reconnaissance aircraft that were operating in the same area from a base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.
The Abe-led government is expected to authorise troops to protect Japanese commercial ships in case of danger, a plan that has faced opposition from pacifist groups.
Despite being a US ally, Japanese troops are not part of a US-led coalition protecting Middle East waterways, because Tokyo wants to maintain neutrality in a show of consideration to Iran.
Japan, which has friendly ties with Iran, seeks to serve as a mediator between the Washington and Tehran and play a greater role in restoring regional stability.
In June, a Japanese-operated tanker was attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Washington said Iran was responsible and urged Japan to join the US-led military initiative.