Photo/Illutration The Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Takanami leaves the MSDF’s base in Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture on Feb. 2. (Rei Kishitsu)

YOKOSUKA, Kanagawa Prefecture--A Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer sailed from the port here on Feb. 2 on a mission to gather intelligence to ensure the safety of commercial vessels connected to Japan in the Middle East.

The destroyer Takanami, with a crew of 200, will join the two P-3C MSDF patrol aircraft that left Japan on Jan. 11 for the nearly year-long assignment.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Taro Kono attended the ceremony on Feb. 2 to see the destroyer off.

“It is an important duty for the Japanese government to ensure the safety of vessels related to Japan,” Abe said. “The mission to gather necessary intelligence for the purpose has a great significance for the lives of Japanese people.”

Ninety percent of the Japanese imports of crude oil come from the Middle East.
The dispatch of the MSDF for the study and research assignment in the Middle East was approved by the Cabinet in December.

The destroyer and aircraft will cover the Gulf of Oman, the northern half of the Arabian Sea as well as the Gulf of Aden to the east of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.

The mission will continue through Dec. 26.

(This article was written by Ryuichi Yamashita and Yuichi Nobira.)