Last year, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama terminated the mission that sent MSDF refueling ships to the Indian Ocean, where they refueled ships involved in Operation Enduring Freedom. Hatoyama and his cabinet objected on the grounds that the mission was not sanctioned by the U.N., a key provision for deployment of Self Defense Force personnel. They had a point.

Now, it appears as though the refueling ships may be sent even farther, to help refuel international warships involved in the international piracy mission off the Horn of Africa.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan is hoping to reveal the new international contribution during his planned talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Canada on Sunday, they said.

A new law will have to be passed before such a mission can start. The government is expected to submit the necessary bill to the Diet during the extraordinary session expected later this year. (Link)

According to the article, when Hatoyama pulled the plug on the Indian Ocean mission, Defense Minister Kitazawa (who retained his position in the Kan cabinet) floated the idea of shifting the mission to Somalia. Such a prompt substitution would have gone a long way towards deflecting charges that Hatoyama was disengaging from the United States. Oh Yukio, the level of your incompetence is still to be determined.

Placing Japanese tankers off the coast of Somalia may have unintended consequences, however. In order to be useful, the tankers would have to be put in harm’s way, in areas with pirate activity, and will have to be themselves protected. This will bulk up the Japanese presence considerably.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 596 post(s) on Japan Security Watch