The Yomiuri Shimbun Although a pair of Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers have been dispatched off the coast of Somalia, participating in antipiracy missions could negatively impact the MSDF‚Äôs operations.
A total of up to six vessels will need to be reassigned from their regular duties in order to escort commercial ships in a seamless manner. The four additional ships include two that will leave Japan for Somali waters to replace the currently dispatched destroyers. The other two will be retasked with antipiracy training in Japan.
The MSDF has 48 destroyers. However, a senior MSDF official said, ‚ÄúBecause we have to remain vigilant and continue surveillance activities in the East China Sea, where China has stepped up its military presence, it‚Äôs very difficult for us to send that many vessels.‚Äù
Some opposition party lawmakers and observers have said there is a constitutional problem with the MSDF‚Äôs participation in Combined Task Force 151. Article 9 of the Constitution is interpreted as prohibiting the use of force overseas, as well as the Self-Defense Forces‚Äô participation in multilateral operations to use force.
The Defense Ministry‚Äôs stance is that dealing with the crime of piracy does not constitute ‚Äúthe use of force,‚Äù but ‚Äúthe use of police authority.‚Äù Regarding the CTF, a senior SDF official said it is not an armed military force, adding, ‚ÄúNo compulsory power is involved in the command relationship during operations.‚Äù
While the MSDF‚Äôs antipiracy missions have been prolonged, the government is also taking measures to combat piracy through stabilizing Somalia, where many pirates are based.
After the anarchy that followed Somalia‚Äôs civil war in 1991, a unified government was finally established in 2012 with the help of the international community. Through the work of international organizations, Tokyo has supported Somalia with such efforts as strengthening its police force and offering job training for young people. The government will soon resume direct support for Somalia, as well as help enhance the maritime police capabilities of neighboring countries such as Djibouti.
However, it is likely that MSDF vessels will continue to be dispatched for the forseeable future as such efforts will take time to bear fruit.