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2008年11月27日 (木)

ソマリア沖海賊 海自派遣へ新法の検討を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 27, 2008)

Give MSDF legal base to tackle pirates

ソマリア沖海賊 海自派遣へ新法の検討を急げ(1127日付・読売社説)

A recent rise in the number of vessels attacked by pirates off Somalia means no country can any longer turn a blind eye to the problem. Japan is no exception. This nation should quickly start considering the dispatch of Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to the area off eastern Africa where these attacks are occurring.


Ninety-four attacks by pirates have been reported off Somalia or in the Gulf of Aden so far this year, more than double the figure for the whole of last year. Three Japanese-related private vessels were among those targeted.


Somalia is in a state of anarchy, which makes it almost impossible for the country to crack down on pirates. The "piracy business" of demanding ransom for returning hijacked vessels and crew members is thriving. It is estimated that between 2.4 billion yen and 2.9 billion yen in ransom was handed over to pirates this year.


Each year, 18,000 vessels travel through the route connecting the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Of them, 2,000, or more than 10 percent, are Japanese-related. On average, more than five Japanese vessels travel through these waters each day.



Nation's interests at stake

It would not be a surprise if a Japanese vessel came under attack from pirates and incurred tremendous damage anytime soon. Dealing with pirates is directly linked to the national interests of Japan, a nation that depends on trade. It is, therefore, important to make serious efforts to tackle this problem.


The U.N. Security Council adopted resolutions in June and October that called on member nations to dispatch naval vessels and military planes to combat piracy off Somalia. Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and nine other countries have already dispatched military vessels, which are now escorting vessels or cracking down on pirates in the area.


Japan can no longer sit on its hands and depend on other countries to stamp out the scourge of piracy. The government and the ruling and opposition parties should study steps as soon as possible to enable the dispatch of MSDF ships to deter pirates.


One option would be placing priority on prompt responses. The government would dispatch MSDF vessels in the name of conducting research in the area. If a Japanese ship was attacked, the MSDF vessels would deal with the situation by invoking the maritime patrol clause of the Self-Defense Forces Law.


However, under this scenario, MSDF vessels would not be allowed to escort other countries' ships, and the use of arms would be limited to self-defense and some other circumstances.



Put political bickering aside

Instead, Japan should enact a new law for cracking down on pirates, which would allow this nation to deal flexibly with regard to such matters as warning shots and shots targeted at pirate vessels.


It would be proper for the government to submit a bill for such a law. But, if speed is of the essence in submitting this bill, one quicker option would be for lawmakers to submit a bill.


A nonpartisan group of midcareer and junior lawmakers from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and New Komeito has started studying the details of a new antipiracy law. Prime Minister Taro Aso also has reacted positively toward enacting a new law.


The DPJ is taking a confrontational stance against the government and ruling parties on most issues, but it should not have any reason to oppose such a law because antipiracy measures would be in keeping with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and the U.N. resolutions. The largest opposition party should respond positively to any offer to hold consultations on this issue with the ruling parties.


The ruling and opposition parties also should not rule out enacting this new law during the current extraordinary Diet session, provided the session is extended beyond its scheduled close Sunday.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 27, 2008)

200811270158  読売新聞)


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