China / World

Japanese defense forces plan mission in the Middle East after attacks

(China Daily) Updated: 2019-10-24 07:34

TOKYO - Japan plans to send its military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to help protect waterways in the Middle East, but will not join a United States-led maritime coalition in the region, Kyodo News reported on Wednesday.

The move came after attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf region, as well as on Saudi Arabian oil installations. The US and Saudi Arabia blame the attacks on Teheran, which denies any involvement.

Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi informed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of Tokyo's plan in a phone call on Tuesday, Kyodo said.

Pompeo and his Japanese counterpart discussed coordination on Iran, a US State Department spokesperson said in a statement, without providing more details.

The statement said the two countries pledged to continue to work closely across a broad agenda of regional and global security issues.

The US has formed a naval coalition to protect navigation in the Middle East, which is critical to global oil supplies. And Britain and Australia are the principal Western partners of the US to have agreed to send warships to escort commercial shipping in the Gulf.

Most European states have declined to participate, fearful of undermining their efforts to save a nuclear accord with Iran after the US withdrew last year, leading to rising tensions.

Japan is considering sending two destroyers to the region, including one already on an anti-piracy mission off Somalia, Kyodo said, citing sources close to the matter. But the ships are not expected to operate in the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the global oil trade passes and where the US-led coalition operates, the report said.

Japan's post-World War II Pacifist Constitution commits it to strictly defensive capabilities, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has campaigned for years to amend it. And he has taken a series of steps to boost the country's military.

Japan relies on the Middle East for around 90 percent of its crude oil imports and is keen to ensure the safety of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz, which is a crucial oil export route.

Afp - Xinhua

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