Fri, Dec 26, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Japan considers sending destroyer to fight pirates

AGENCIES , TOKYO AND SANAA

Japan is considering dispatching warships to the Gulf of Aden to join international efforts to combat piracy in the region, officials said yesterday.

Japanese government spokesman Takeo Kawamura said the government may send a destroyer to the region off the Somali coast to prevent pirate attacks against Japanese ships.

However, Japan’s administration is divided over the move, media reports said, and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has not made a final decision.

If dispatched, it would be the first time Japan’s Self-Defense Forces were to join in a policing operation in international waters.

Kawamura said that under current rules, the Japanese navy could only protect Japanese ships or “other vessels related to Japan.”

“It will be necessary to consider how to handle the point and how we can ensure it in a law. We are asking the project teams in the ruling parties to consider the issue,” he said.

An investigation into the pirates’ activities was necessary prior to a decision, as the Defense Ministry had insufficient information, Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada was quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency.

This year, pirates seized more than 200 ships in the waters off the Horn of Africa, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, holding them and their crews for ransom.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni government said on Wednesday it was creating a regional anti-piracy center to battle the growing number of high-seas hijackings by Somali pirates in the area.

The center will act as a hub for the exchange of information about piracy and for the coordination of multinational naval forces in international and Somali territorial waters, a Yemeni transport minstry spokesman was quoted as saying by the official Saba news agency.

Yemen has already started work on building the center, which should be completed in about six months, with 10 Red Sea and Gulf of Aden countries taking part, the official said.

Arab nations on the Red Sea met in Cairo last month and committed to cooperate in the fight against the pirates, but did not announce any concrete measures.

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