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Japan not the last to experience spillover effect of Gaza conflict

China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-23 08:15
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Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, talks to members of the media during a press conference at the end of the second day of meetings of the G7 Foreign Ministers in Tokyo, Japan, Nov 8, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Japan may have never expected it would get caught up in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but Yemen's Houthi militia has detained a Japanese cargo ship in the Middle East saying it had links to Israel, implying that any ship with Israeli links is a legitimate target for them.

A video released by the Houthis shows the cargo ship sailing in the Red Sea before masked men jumped on its deck from a helicopter, pointed guns at the crew and raised Palestinian and Yemeni flags on board.

Earlier, the Houthi militia had fired missiles at Israel over the bombing of Gaza, but these were intercepted by the US military.

The seizure of the Japanese cargo ship could be the opening of a new front in the conflict. According to the Houthis, unless Israel stops pounding Gaza, it will target ships flying the Israeli flag, or that are operated/owned by Israelis.

The United States and Israel have reacted to the ship's seizure, with Israel's military saying the move was a "very serious incident with global implications" and the US military calling it a "flagrant violation of international law".

Information disclosed so far shows the seized freighter belongs to the United Kingdom and an Israeli billionaire is one of its shareholders, but it is now operated by Japan. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa said Japan was in direct contact with the Houthis, while also communicating with Israel and appealing to relevant countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran for the ship's release.

She said the Japanese government will continue to cooperate with relevant countries and take necessary measures.

If the Houthi militia really thinks this is an effective way of dealing with Israel or other countries it doesn't like, it will greatly disrupt shipping. Not many cargo ships are under Israel's direct control, but many cargo ships have Jews as shareholders. If this kind of threat from the Houthi militia is not eliminated, many ships will try to bypass the Red Sea, using a longer route which will not only increase navigation time, but also freight costs. After all, about one-fifth of the world's oil is transported through this route.

As the Israel-Palestine conflict gets prolonged, the threat of international shipping being disrupted is rising. Japan was the first victim. Who will be next?


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