Sunday’s Mainichi wrote that the coronavirus outbreak has complicated the SDF’s peacekeeping missions abroad, noting that some 60 personnel currently engaged in aerial surveillance operations in the Middle East have had to stay in Djibouti beyond their original assignment of three months that was set to end in mid-April. A replacement unit reportedly cannot be deployed because the country has closed its borders to foreign visitors on account of the pandemic. Some 360 sailors aboard two MSDF destroyers engaged in similar operations in the region are also not allowed to disembark even when their ships call at ports in Gulf states for refueling. The Defense Ministry is reportedly preparing for the possibility of withdrawing these personnel from the region in the event of a novel coronavirus infection at sea.
In a related development, Monday’s Asahi and Sankei wrote that the MSDF destroyer Kirisame, with about 200 personnel aboard, left its homeport of Nagasaki on Sunday to replace the Takanami, which has been engaged in Japan’s information gathering mission in the Middle East since late February. However, the Kirisame will conduct training in Japanese waters for two weeks while testing its crew members for the coronavirus before heading for the Middle East.