Japan has drafted a plan to deploy 250 troops of its Self-Defense Forces (SDF), a helicopter carrier, and P-3C patrol aircraft to the Middle East, in a one-year mission independent of a US-led coalition.
On December 13, Tokyo's ruling Liberal Democratic Party endorsed the plan, paving the way for Cabinet approval scheduled for December 23, Mainichi reported, citing the draft produced by the Japanese government, on Friday.
The intent behind dispatch is to secure navigation of Japan-related vessels operating in the gulf, and to boost intelligence gathering in the region. Areas for the SDF mission will be limited to the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian Sea, as well as the Bab el-Mandeb Strait connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the draft said.
Operations in the area, including drills, is scheduled to start later this month. With the cabinet's approval, the mission can be extended beyond a year.
Two P-3Cs tasked with anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia, will be diverted to take part in the new mission.
In the event of emergencies, the draft said the SDF may take necessary actions at sea to safeguard Japanese lives and property, as a well as foreign vessels in certain cases.
Japan was reluctant to join a US-led coalition to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a key sea lane through which around a fifth of the world's oil passes, out of concern that doing so could hurt Tokyo's friendly ties with Tehran.