U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper looks on as Japan's Defense Minister Taro Kono speaks during a joint news conference at the Pentagon in Washington on Tuesday. Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Kono says SDF mission to Mideast in Japan's self-interest as crude oil importer


Japan's Defense Minister Taro Kono on Tuesday defended Tokyo's decision to send forces to the Middle East to help ensure the safety of merchant ships, saying it was in the Japanese people's interest, despite a new poll showing significant opposition to the mission.

Two Japanese patrol planes left Japan on Jan 11 and are expected to start operations in the Middle East from Jan. 20. A Japanese destroyer is also expected to depart Japan for the region on Feb 2 and begin patrols later in the month.

A poll by Kyodo news agency showed 58.4% of those surveyed opposed the deployment and opposition parties in Japan have called for its cancellation, given heightened tensions in the region between the United States and Iran.

Asked about the poll during a visit to Washington, Kono noted that nearly 90% of the crude oil imported by Japan came from the Middle East and more than 80% passed through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has threatened to mine the Strait in the past.

"So it is (in) Japanese people's interests to protect the safety of the navigation in the area," Kono told reporters at the Pentagon.

In May and June 2019, several attacks took place on international merchant vessels in the region, including the Japanese-owned tanker Kokuka Courageous, which the United States and other nations blamed on Iran.

Tehran denied the allegations.

The Japanese operations in the Middle East are set to cover high seas in the Gulf of Oman, the northern Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

"We are committed to send (Japan's) Self-Defense Forces for information gathering," Kono said.

The United States is already leading a multi-national naval mission in the region aimed at deterring Iranian attacks. Called the International Maritime Security Construct, the mission includes Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Kono cited restrictions in Japan's constitution when asked if it might join the U.S.-led mission.

"But we will be closely communicating with the United States as (an) ally," he said.

Kono said he told U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that Tokyo would make "persistent diplomatic efforts to ease the tension and stabilize the situation in the region." He did not say what kinds of actions Japan might take toward those goals.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.

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This LDP administration under the "ghost" supreme ruler Abe will do what ever they want as long as the public idiots are fed, grow fat and get more stupid. Abe will have the Constitution changed before he leaves office and no will stop him. Who would, no one has the power too anyway.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

Why is Kono not pressing for Japan to wean itself off oil?

I’m still waiting for the urban environment in Japan to be transformed into a more efficient ecological model...

1 ( +5 / -4 )

It would be in Japan s ' self interest as an oil importer ' to stay out of it and avoid taking sides...alas when Donald says jump, the Abe admin asks how high?

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

A poll by Kyodo news agency showed 58.4% of those surveyed opposed the deployment and opposition parties in Japan have called for its cancellation

I guess those people don't care if oil is not safely transported to Japan, or whether those who work on Japanese owned and controlled ships live or die.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Once your energy supplies have been cut off or disrupted is too late to act, prevention is less costly, whoever is attacking the tankers be it the Iranians, rogue elements in the various military or others in their chaotic government.

But don’t worry, it’s all ok, Tehran has denied attacking the Japanese tankers just like they denied shooting down the airliner. So that’s all right than.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

It’s time to move Japan into the 21st century,not keep it tethered to the 19th!

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I'm sure after the environment minister returns to work and realises reliance on oil is going to smudge his child's future there might be a 2% sway towards self reliance on the plentiful scale of Japan's unused resources. If the dribbling old men in charge allow it.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

kurisupisuToday  05:20 pm JST

Why is Kono not pressing for Japan to wean itself off oil?

Because he is the Minister of Defense. And not the Minister of Economy, Trade & Industry which covers energy and resources.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

What can Japan do to defend against Iranian silkworms missiles and S300,Iran control the air 120 miles from where it missile are based, all of the Strait of Hormuz Google Iran Silkworm Missile Google Iran S300

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

40% of the prime energy imports is crude oil with the greater amount coming from the Middle East.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Minister Kono is 100% correct. It would be reckless for the Japanese Govt NOT to send Naval vessels to protect Japanese ships and the many Japanese sailors in this unbelievably dangerous region, which is now on the brink of all out war.

It is a Defense mission, Japan will absolutely not be waging war upon Iran, which is an excellent and close friend.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Why is Kono not pressing for Japan to wean itself off oil?

Even if Japan began looking for alternative fuels, it wouldn't happen overnight and the tankers would still need to be protected today.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Bury your head in the surf & the problem will go away

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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