Japan passes anti-piracy law covering Somalia, Indian Ocean

July 6, 2009 9:16 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, July 6 —The Japan has passed an Anti-Piracy Law which allows its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to protect commercial ships, both Japanese and non-Japanese, from pirates operating off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said.

The Japanese embassy in Manila said that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo “highly welcomed the passage of the law against piracy” in a speech at the International Friendship Exchange Council of Japan on June 19 in Tokyo.

Under Japan’s so-called Peace Constitution, which was enacted soon after its defeat in World War II, the SDF is not allowed to operate beyond the shores of Japan.

Prior to this law, Japan’s naval destroyers were authorized only to protect Japanese-related commercial ships.

Japan’s legislative body, known as the Diet, passed the measure on June 19.

In an official statement released by the Japanese embassy in Manila, Taro said the new law would enable Japan “to take more effective and appropriate measures against acts of piracy” to protect Japanese citizens and goods traversing the seas near Somalia and allow Japan to “discharge its responsibility as a member of the international community by contributing to joint global efforts to curb this menace." In a separate statement, Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said that the new law would also allow Japan to collaborate more closely with the international community in carrying out a multi-pronged approach to the roots of piracy in that part of the Indian Ocean.

The passage of the law has a direct impact on Filipino seafarers, who manned no less than 15 maritime vessels which have been hijacked in the perilous route.

At present, 44 Filipino crew members of four separate vessels remained captives by Somali pirates.

Japan has been an active participant in discussions of the Contact Group set up in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions on the issue. It provided US$ 67 million to the Somali Transitional Federal Government, through international organizations, to improve security.

Nakasone said Japan also submitted a Yen3.6-billion supplemental budget this year to enforce the development projects in Somalia in an effort to bring stability to this African nation.

He also said that survey missions were dispatched to Yemen and Djibouti to assess the feasibility of improving their capacity to prevent piracy and armed robbery in the high seas. In her speech in Tokyo, President Macapagal-Arroyo expressed that as a major supplier of the world’s seafarers, the Philippines “greatly appreciates” Japan’s decision to send vessels from the Maritime Self-Defense Force to the Indian Ocean to protect Japanese ships and foreign ships from the scourge of piracy.

The Philippines accounts for approximately 70 per cent, or about 30,000 seafarers, of crew members manning Japanese commercial vessels.

Macapagal-Arroyo also said that the active participation of Japan in combating piracy in the Indian Ocean was an example of the many roles that Japan had assumed internationally and this action and other actions clearly demonstrated that Japan should be a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

In late March this year, Japan dispatched two naval destroyers to join other nations in efforts to ensure safe maritime navigation in the Indian Ocean near Somalia. Its naval destroyers have so far escorted 87 Japanese-related vessels in 28 such missions. (PNA)

RMA/GJB

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