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Japan to send troops in Middle East role

By WANG XU in Tokyo | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2019-12-28 09:31

Despite constitutional restraints and public opposition, Japan's Cabinet approved a plan on Friday to send a Self-Defense Force aircraft and a destroyer to the Middle East, along with around 250 troops, amid heightened tensions in the region.

The planned deployment, backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition ally Komeito, is to purportedly conduct information-gathering operations and other activities related to improving the safety of commercial ships in the region.

Under the plan, the helicopter-carrying destroyer and a P-3C patrol plane, together with the 250 or so troops, will be sent.

In a bid to maintain its friendly ties with Teheran, Tokyo said its Self-Defense Force personnel will conduct their activities away from, and independent of, a Washington-led coalition in place to ensure maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz.

The decision marks a distinct U-turn by the government, which earlier in the year said it had absolutely no plans to deploy service personnel to the region.

The planned deployment is a thorny one owing to the nation's war-renouncing constitution, which heavily restricts the activities of the Self-Defense Force and specifically prohibits Japan from engaging in acts of war or maintaining armed forces with the potential for waging wars.

Kyoji Yanagisawa, Japan's former assistant chief Cabinet secretary in charge of national security and crisis management, questioned the move in an interview with Nippon Television Network, saying the deployment will "only serve US interests" and would be "a mistake".

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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