Japan will extend the Self-Defense Forces’ anti-piracy mission in the waters off Somalia for another year starting July 23.
The SDF also opened its first overseas base since the end of World War II in Djibouti, Somalia's neighboring country, earlier this month to further strengthen its anti-piracy operations off Somalia.
The Anti-Piracy Law, which was enacted in Japan’s Parliament on June 19, 2009, and took effect on July 24, 2009, allows the SDF to escort foreign commercial ships and fire at pirate boats if they ignore warning signals and approach merchant ships.
Japan’s post-World War II pacifist constitution imposes strict restrictions on the SDF’s activities abroad. The SDF had previously been allowed to escort only Japan-related ships, such as Japanese-registered and Japanese-operated vessels, and its use of weapons had been limited to legitimate self-defense.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, SDF vessels escorted a total of 1,858 commercial ships in the waters of the Gulf of Aden off Somalia between July 28, 2009, and June 30, 2011, to protect them against pirate attacks under the Anti-Piracy Law.
Of the 1,858 commercial ships escorted by the SDF vessels on 217 occasions during the nearly two-year period, only 12 are Japanese-registered and the remaining 1,846 are foreign-registered. Of the 1,846 foreign-registered ships, 424 are operated by Japanese shipping firms and the remaining 1,422 are operated by foreign shipping companies, including 16 vessels operated by U.S. firms.