Editorial Board, Sankei Shimbun
The Middle East situation has remained very tense due to a standoff between the United States and Iran. Under the circumstances, the need for dispatching Japan’s Self-Defense Forces personnel to the Mideast has been clearly heightened.
On January 10, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono issued an order for the destroyer Takanami and two P-3C patrol planes of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) to be deployed to the Middle East. The order is only natural for securing the safety of Japan’s commercial shipping vessels operating in the Middle East region.
The MSDF personnel are on an information-gathering mission conducive to ensuring the navigational safety of Japanese flag-flying commercial vessels, including tankers. In the event of a contingency, the destroyer and the P-3Cs are to engage in maritime patrol activities under another order from the defense minister for protecting Japanese-registered ships.
The P-3C patrol planes left Japan for the Middle East on January 11 and are scheduled to start their mission on January 20. The destroyer Takanami, meanwhile, is continuing preparations to depart Japan for the region on February 2.
Japan is dependent on the Middle East for about 90% of the country’s crude oil imports. Should the inflow of oil from the Middle East be disrupted, the economy and the livelihood of the Japanese people would be certain to suffer a serious blow. We would like to see the MSDF personnel on the information-gathering mission take great pride in fulfilling their important duties.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a five-day trip to three Middle East countries, including Saudi Arabia, from January 11 to 15, with a view to adding his own diplomatic efforts to help ease tensions in the region, while explaining Japan’s dispatch of information-gathering troops. Earlier, Defense Minister Kono had a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Amir Hatami, on January 9, informing him of Japan’s rationale for dispatching the MSDF information-gathering mission to the Middle East region.
The Japanese government should continue its diplomatic efforts in the region. In particular, it is important to win the understanding of Persian Gulf countries of Japan’s efforts for protecting the safety of navigation of Japanese vessels through the deployment of the MSDF task force.
The importance of this mission warrants the great majority of the nation’s support for sending SDF troops overseas. Regrettably, however, the four major opposition parties — the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the Japanese Communist Party — have all opposed the MSDF dispatch, alleging, among other things, that it would intensify the Washington-Tehran confrontation.
The opposition parties’ bid to put a stop to the SDF mission to the Middle East on the basis — they say — that doing so “could prove to be risky,” is extremely unconvincing.
It should be borne in mind that Japan-related vessels have been navigating waters in the Middle East daily, in spite of the potential dangers involved. In fact, it is for the very reason that the current Middle East situation is dangerous that it has become necessary to dispatch the MSDF destroyer and patrol planes — to ensure the safety of Japanese commercial ships operating there.
Information the MSDF troops will collect on their mission to the Middle East will be shared with Japan’s shipping industry. Sending the MSDF troops abroad will also make it possible for Japan to obtain more detailed navigation-related information, such as has been gathered in the past by the navies of collaborating countries. These pieces of information will surely be conducive to helping enhance the safety of Japanese vessels.
Don’t Japan’s opposition parties understand that, by opposing the MSDF mission overseas, they would leave Japanese commercial vessels entirely dependent on foreign countries for their safety?
What they propose would be tantamount to withdrawing into a shell of the notorious and unrealistic rhetoric of “one-country pacifism.” Such irresponsible thinking that can never be validated by the rest of the world and must be jettisoned.