Japan to provide patrol ships to Djibouti to enhance maritime security

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that Japan plans to provide patrol ships to Djibouti to help its coast guard improve maritime security as he met with President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

On the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to the African nation, Abe visited the operating base of Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel stationed in the country to fight piracy that was built on the northern side of Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport in 2011.

"It is vital for Japan to protect waters in the region. And it is essential for the international community to ensure peace, stability and prosperity," Abe told MSDF personnel as he stressed the importance of Japan's contribution to maritime security.

The provision of patrol ships to Djibouti would help commercial vessels and tankers to pass through the area smoothly, as Tokyo aims to ensure the security of sea lanes that are vital to transporting crude oil and natural resources.

Japan will be sending experts in September to assess the situation in Djibouti, Japanese government officials said.

Abe also said Japan will provide support to Djibouti to develop geothermal power generation and secure stable electricity supplies.

The prime minister is on a six-day trip through Thursday to oil-producing nations in the Middle East and Djibouti.

Since taking office last December, Abe has pledged to provide not only financial aid but other forms of assistance in the areas of human resources and security to Africa so that Japanese companies can further venture into the resource-rich continent.

"We need to promote international cooperation to strengthen measures to fight piracy," Abe told reporters after visiting the MSDF base.

The MSDF has two escort vessels and two P-3C patrol aircraft in the region, which since their deployment in 2009 have escorted over 3,000 commercial ships, and conducted warning and surveillance flights over 1,000 times in the Gulf of Aden.

Japan has decided to allow one of the destroyers to be used in a joint operation with multinational forces from December as piracy attacks have shifted from waters off Somalia to a broader area.

Abe has a strong interest in maritime security. In July, he unveiled a plan to provide 10 patrol ships to the Philippines, which is involved in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.