Japan to send military vessel, planes to Middle East as WWIII looms

Japan's Defence Minister Taro Kono speaks during a press conference at the defence ministry in Tokyo on December 27, 2019. PHOTO | JIJI PRESS | AFP

Japan will send a military vessel and two patrol planes to help protect waterways in the Middle East but will not join a US-led coalition in the region, the government said Friday.

The move comes after attacks this year on tankers in the Gulf including a Japanese tanker, as well as on Saudi Arabian oil installations.

Washington, other Western states and Saudi Arabia blame the attacks on Tehran, which denies any involvement.

Japan will send a destroyer to the region for intelligence activities along with two P3C patrol aircraft, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga, the top government spokesman, told reporters.

The move is “Japan’s own measure aimed at peace and stability in the Middle East as well as ensuring safety of Japan-related vessels,” Suga said, noting that 90 percent of crude oil Tokyo imports were from the region.

Meanwhile, Britain has increased its security and readiness at military bases in the Middle East after the United States killed Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, Sky News reported on Friday without citing sources.

Britain has about 400 military personnel in Iraq, who help provide training in the country. They are mostly located at Taji base, north of Baghdad.

“The safety and security of our personnel is of paramount importance and we keep our force protection measures under constant review. We do not to comment on specific force protection measures,” a spokesman from Britain’s Ministry of Defence said when asked about the report.