Dispatch of MSDF Vessels to Water off the Coast of Somalia
There were 293 reported piracy incidents in 2008, according to a report by the International Maritime Bureau, marking an increase for two consecutive years. There was a particularly rapid increase of 60% from the preceding year in Africa, which claimed 60% of all reported piracy cases worldwide. The district in Africa where piracy most frequently occurred off the coast of Somalia, where 111 cases were reported in 2008, marking a big increase from 43 cases in the preceding year.
A cooperative structure among coastal countries has been established in Asia, leading to enhanced security. This has resulted in a decline in piracy incidents since 2003. Japan has been actively contributing to antipiracy measures, for example, by playing a leading role in the formulation of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).
Japan was a cosponsor of UN Security Council Resolutions 1816 and 1838 concerning piracy off the coast of Somalia and is actively addressing this issue as well.
Issuance of Instructions and an Order for Preparation
On January 28, Defense Minister Hamada instructed Chief of Staff, Joint Staff, Takashi Saito, MSDF Chief of Staff Keiji Akahoshi, and the director of the Defense Intelligence Headquarters to undertake preparations for measures against piracy off the Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden. He also ordered the Commander-in-Chief of the Self-Defense Fleet Toru Izumi to undertake preparations.
These were issued in the light of the possibility that maritime security operation will be ordered as an emergency measure until the enactment of a new law, but the Ministry of Defense has maintained its basic stance that any antipiracy activity by the SDF should be based on a new law, and so it has indicated its intention to focus its energies on accelerating the work to create such a law.
Dispatch of Investigation Team
The Ministry of Defense dispatched a field investigation team on February 8 to gather technical and specialized information on bases from which MSDF vessels and patrol planes would operate and to review operational procedures in case a maritime security operation is ordered.
The 13-member team included one personnel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was headed by an MSDF captain at Joint Staff . It visited Yemen, Djibouti, Oman, and Bahrain from February 8 to 20.
The team members investigated the Port of Aden in Yemen, the Port of Djibouti, the Port of Salala in Oman, the international wing of the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport, US military facilities, French military facilities, and military establishments at the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport. All of them were confirmed to be potential bases of activity, and views were exchanged at the headquarters of the Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain on pirates' activities and the operations of each country's forces.
MSDF-Coast Guard Joint Exercises
In preparation for a maritime security operation off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden which may be ordered, the MSDF and the Japan Coast Guard held the first joint exercise on February 20 off the Port of Kure. Aboard the MSDF's destroyer Takanami and two Coast Guard patrol boats which played the role of a pirate ship and commercial vessel some 250 people took part in the exercise, including 60 from the Coast Guard.
On March 2 and 3, a joint map exercise was held at the MSDF Staff College in Meguro, Tokyo. Most of the 155 participants were from the MOD but also included members of the Cabinet Secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Ministry of Justice, and the Japan Coast Guard. Guidelines for on-site coordination with relevant ministries and agencies were confirmed under several scenarios.
Joint exercises with the Japan Coast Guard
Prime Minister Aso and Defense Minister Hamada see off the vessels
Departure of MSDF vessels
On March 13, Defense Minister Hamada, with the approval of the Prime Minister, issued an order for maritime security operations to the Commander of the Self-Defense Fleet to respond to piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. Defense Minister Hamada expressed his view that piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia is a threat to the international community, including Japan, and that the issue must be addressed immediately. He also stated that it was an important responsibility of the government to protect the lives and assets of the Japanese people in the waters that serve as highly critical maritime traffic routes for Japan.
Upon the issuance of the order, destroyers Sazanami and Samidare, with approximately 400 on-board personnel, including 8 officials from the Japan Coast Guard to carry out judicial police activities, departed from Kure port on March 14. Two patrol aircrafts are aboard each vessel.
Toward the Enactment of a New Bill
On March 13 decisions were made at a Cabinet meeting not only on the issuance of an order for maritime security operations but also on the Bill regarding Penalties for Acts of Piracy and Measures against Acts of Piracy. The government submitted the bill to the Diet the same day for deliberations.
Defense Minister Hamada delivered an address on March 14 at a ceremony for the departure of a maritime force to be dispatched to the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. In his address, Defense Minister Hamada stated that measures taken by the SDF to respond to piracy required new legislation and that the government would make the utmost efforts for the early enactment of the bill in order to secure Japan's national interests by deterring acts of piracy and to discharge its responsibilities as a member of the international community.
Destroyer Sazanami and Samidare