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ANTI PIRACY INITIATIVE

Tuesday February 10th, 2009
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This week two Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyers were dispatched from Kure in Hiroshima to begin their first anti-piracy exercise. It is believed the vessels will later be sent to the waters off Somalia. The exercise will involve the 4,650ton Sazanami and the 4,550ton Samidare firing machine guns and rapid-fire guns at mock up pirate boats, with helicopters patrolling the sky above offering back-up fire.
According to reports around 370 personnel are involved, some of who are members of the MSDF’s elite Special Boarding Unit. Although nothing has been made official it has been stated by MSDF Chief of Staff Adm. Keiji Akahoshi that this is an exercise to help improve shooting skills in the event the ships are sent to the waters off Somalia.
Chief Akahoshi said 'It is possible that (the dispatch) will be made from early to the middle of the month'. He added that the order would come once an anti-piracy bill has been submitted to parliament early March. Japan’s ruling parties have recently visited the EU’s anti-piracy command centre in Northwood, UK. The Japanese initiative has been welcomed as it is thought that pirates in the Gulf or Arden would be less likely to attack ships if they saw warships nearby.
However according to parliamentarian General Nakatani 'If pirates use long-range rockets, there may be other factors that need to be taken into account at the scene,' and he has urged for the rules of engagement on the use of weapons to be eased.
The Japanese destroyers would also be subject to the maritime police action provision of the SDF law, which restricts the MSDF's use of force in anti-piracy operations in situations such as self-defence. This limits potential protection to Japanese or Japanese-linked ships, and excludes foreign ships with no Japanese nationals or shipments on board.
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