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MSDF Anti-piracy Missions Off Somalia?

The government is considering special legislative measures to send Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to waters off the coast of Somalia in order to guard commercial freighters against pirates. The MSDF’s antipiracy operations would be limited to offshore areas near the Somalia coast. The MSDF would guard not only Japanese commercial ships but also foreign ships. The government will decide whether to present a bill to the Diet at its next ordinary session after seeing the attitude of the leading opposition Democratic Party of Japan (Minshuto). The planned legislation will likely be controversial due to such issues as the rules of engagement (ROE) or guidelines for the MSDF to use weapons.

In addition to special legislation, the government is also looking into the feasibility of creating a general law allowing Japan to engage the MSDF in activities anywhere in international waters. Since coordination will take time, the government will likely present a special measures bill to the ordinary Diet session to fast-track it.The planned special antipiracy legislation is intended to engage the Self-Defense Forces in such activities as escorting tankers and other commercial ships off the coast of Somalia. The MSDF, when spotting pirate ships, will halt them in order to prevent commercial ships from being attacked. MSDF vessels, if and when they came under attack from pirate ships, will use armed force that is needed for legitimate self-defense. The government is also considering the option of dispatching P-3C patrol aircraft for over-the-water surveillance.

There is also a plan to detain and prosecute pirates in Japan. However, the government will not incorporate this option in the planned special measures law. Instead, the government is considering incorporating it in a general law. MSDF destroyers dispatched under the special measures law will ask foreign naval vessels to crack down on pirates when spotting them.

Sorce: NIKKEI (Page 1), 19 Nov 08

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