Japan mulls dispatch of SDF troops to Middle East for monitoring mission

TOKYO, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government said Friday it is considering dispatching the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to the Middle East for monitoring and information gathering missions.


File photo: VCG

The potential dispatch of troops would not be joining a planned U.S.-led coalition near the Strait of Hormuz, owing to Japan's friendly ties with Iran, sources close to the matter said.

The envisioned U.S. military coalition, which has only seen Britain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Bahrain agree to join, follows two oil tankers being attacked near the Strait of Hormuz in June. One of the tankers belonged to a Japanese shipping firm.

While the dispatch of Japanese troops could fall under the SDF's "survey and research" activities as stipulated by law, the issue remains a thorny one as Japan's military activities in overseas theaters are highly restricted under Japan's pacifist, war-renouncing constitution.

The independent mission being considered by Japan would likely revolve around the Maritime Self-Defense Force's destroyers and patrol aircraft being sent to the region to gather data while observing the situation, the sources said.

Japan relies on the Middle East for around 90 percent of its crude oil imports, and is keen to ensure the safety of vessels through the Strait of Hormuz, which is a key oil export route.

The initial parameters of the potential SDF dispatch were confirmed at a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Friday, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructing relevant ministers to study the feasibility of the mission.

Japan's top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, while confirming at a press briefing on the matter Friday that Japan would be "making its own efforts" in terms of the mission, said the exact time of the possible deployment had not been fixed yet.