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Special MSDF unit eyed to fight piracy
[January 21, 2009]

Special MSDF unit eyed to fight piracy

TOKYO, Jan 20, 2009 (The Yomiuri Shimbun - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The government is considering deploying the special boarding unit of the Maritime Self-Defense Force on MSDF destroyers should the vessels be dispatched to Somalia to protect Japan-related ships from pirates, according to sources.

Any pirates that committed serious crimes such as a murder on the Japan-related ships could be taken to Japan for indictment, the sources added.

The special boarding unit was started in 2001 after a North Korean spy ship violated Japanese waters in 1999. The unit would be deployed as the first line of defense against attacks by armed pirates in waters off Somalia.

After obtaining the ruling parties' consent for operations by the MSDF in the waters off Somalia, the government would set guidelines for guarding vessels and dealing with pirates, as well as an operational code of conduct on weapons use, the sources said.

The government hopes to start MSDF operations off Somalia in late March, they added.
Two MSDF destroyers would be sent to form a convoy with Japan-related vessels plying the waters, while a helicopter would patrol overhead, until they reach safe waters.

The destroyers would be tasked with protecting Japan-registered ships, ships operated by Japanese firms, and ships that are registered in foreign countries but have Japanese crew and cargo aboard.

The Construction and Transport Ministry would select which ships warrant the extra protection, based on the importance of the freight and other factors.

When necessary, MSDF members would order pirate ships to stop and board them for inspection. Should the use of weapons be considered necessary, the Police Duties Execution Law would be applied.

The ships would stay in real-time contact with the Defense Ministry and the Crisis Management Center at the Prime Minister's Office via satellite, the sources said.

The government also is considering arranging a monitoring system that would feed video footage to Japan.

The operational code of conduct is designed to judge whether necessary conditions will be met when the MSDF personnel decide they have to use their weapons.

Countries whose ships have been attacked in the pirate-infested waters have so far tended to focus on trying to deter the attacks, rather than wiping out the pirates. Because the responsibility for proving the justification of using weapons lies with the MSDF, it has to take all possible measures to ensure evidence used in making the decision remains intact.

Japan Coast Guard officers, who have judicial police authority, would accompany MSDF members aboard the destroyers to ensure the law is enforced correctly when pirates are detained.

The seized pirates would be handed to a nearby country or, if they have committed serious crimes, sent to Japan.

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