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MSDF best in the world in minesweeping

  • 2015-07-14 15:00:00
  • , Sankei
  • Translation

(Sankei: July 14, 2015 – p.5)

 

 The Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) has been conducting minesweeping training at Iwo Jima Island since 1972, but “this training has never been open to the public,” according to a source connected to the MSDF. Access to the island is strictly controlled, and even people who lost family members in the battle there can’t easily visit the island. Regarding the reason for opening the minesweeping training to the public this time, an official of the Defense Ministry said, “The government aimed to gain the understanding of the public by playing up the MSDF’s high-level minesweeping capability and its necessity.” In fact,the MSDF’s minesweeping expertise is said to be the best in the world.

 

 In 1991, after the Gulf War ended, the MSDF dispatched a minesweeping flotilla to the Persian Gulf. Back then, other countries’ navies were already conducting minesweeping in the area. MSDF was assigned a dangerous area where minesweeping was the most difficult. Despite the adverse conditions, the MSDF disposed of as many as 34 mines, which invited high praise from other countries. That is why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proudly says, “Japan has a superlative minesweeping capability.”

 

 The MSDF’s minesweeping capability is deeply associated with the historical context. Immediately after World War II, waters surrounding Japan were filled with mines including 55,000 laid by the former Japanese Imperial Army for defending the country and 12,000 more laid by the U.S. military in an operation to starve Japan.

 

 In order to remove those mines, the MSDF conducted minesweeping in major sea lanes until 1985, disposing of about 7,000 mines. During the period, 79 members were killed in the performance of duty. Even today, whenever a mine is found during an underwater or magnetic survey prior to port construction, the MSDF handles the disposal.

 

 The Korean War broke out in 1950 before Japan became independent. Japan dispatched 33 minesweepers to dispose of 29 mines. This dedicated minesweeping is said to have helped dispel the Allied Powers’ distrust of Japan, which eventually led to Japan’s early independence.

 

 The MSDF’s minesweeping capability is the result of these accumulated experiences. Lately the MSDF is actively participating in joint exercises conducted overseas with other countries such as Bahrain (in the Persian Gulf) to maintain its high expertise.

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