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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Coast guard officers join antipiracy team
By JUN HONGO
The Japan Coast Guard assigned eight officers Monday to the planned Maritime Self-Defense Force antipiracy mission off Somalia as concern lingered over the dearth of details regarding the dispatch.
The team, headed by Superintendent Third Grade Yukihiro Takeuchi of the coast guard's Criminal Investigation Division, will join a 400-strong MSDF contingent departing from Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, as early as Saturday.
"This mission could be long, and under a difficult, stressful environment," coast guard Commandant Teiji Iwasaki told the squad. "I expect you to execute your duties as professionals."
The eight officers will be on two MSDF destroyers. Their duties, likened by Iwasaki as the first real collaboration overseas between the MSDF and coast guard, will include possibly arresting any Somali pirates they capture.
The two destroyers, each carrying two patrol helicopters, are expected to be given orders Friday to guard Japan-related vessels off Somalia. The dispatch will be ordered under the maritime police action provision of the Self-Defense Forces Law, but the government is also drafting a new permanent law that would enhance the MSDF's rules of engagement against pirates.
"We will display our investigative abilities and show what we have achieved through our training with the MSDF," Takeuchi said.
However, he revealed that details of the mission, including which ports will be used for refueling, remain unclear.
"Discussing the details of the mission and practice will continue even after we leave port, until our arrival" in the Gulf of Aden, Takeuchi said.
The destroyers are expected to reach the Gulf of Aden two to three weeks after leaving Japan.