Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s government decided to send a warship and patrol planes to the region to protect its commercial tankers amid high tension in the region.
Japan’s top government spokesman said on Friday that the government decided to send a warship and patrol planes to protect the country’s commercial ships in the Middle East where it imports nearly 90 percent of its crude oil needs.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet approved a plan for dispatching a helicopter-equipped destroyer and two P-3C patrol planes to gather information aimed at ensuring safe passage for Japanese ships and tankers the region.
They will be ordered to use theirs weapons in case they face any threats.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “Peace and stability in the Middle East is extremely important for the peace and prosperity of the international community including Japan,” at a regular news conference.
“Also, it is very important to make sure Japan-related ships can sail safely in the Middle East, the world’s major source of energy.”
Japanese oil importers and refiners welcomed the government's decision.
“The Middle East situation remains unpredictable ... We believe the decision, made against this backdrop, will benefit the safe passage of ships in the region,” Petroleum Association of Japan President Takashi Tsukioka said in a statement.
Friction between Iran and the United States increased last year, when US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposed sanctions on it, crippling its economy.
In May and June there were several attacks on commercial tankers, some of which were Japanese, in the Gulf.
The US blamed Iran for these attacks while Tehran denied the accusations.
Japan, one of the biggest US allies, has been trying to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran.
As increasing tension between Iran and the United States, Japanese PM Abe visited Iran in to stop the escalation.
Abe’s move marked the first visit by a Japanese leader to Iran since the 1979 revolution.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met with PM Abe last week in Tokyo to discuss strengthening bilateral relations.
The plan to send naval forces was briefed to Rouhani by Abe during a last week.
The planned operation is set to cover high seas in the Gulf of Oman, northern Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden, but not the Strait of Hormuz.
The Japanese government aims to start the operation using the patrol planes next month, while the destroyer will likely begin activities in the region in February, a defense ministry official said.