What Happened: The Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will dispatch ships and aircraft to the eastern Bab el-Mandeb strait, the Gulf of Oman and the northern Arabian Sea for an investigation and research mission, according to Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, The Japan Times reported Oct. 18. Tokyo has not yet confirmed a date for the deployment and added that the regional security situation doesn’t require escorts of Japanese oil tankers. Suga also said that Japan wouldn’t be joining the U.S.-led coalition in the region, but would cooperate with Washington.
Why It Matters: Although Japan’s deployment intends to augment U.S. efforts to protect commercial shipping in the region, Tokyo has drawn a sharp line against formal participation in the U.S. coalition. The mission will still, however, be controversial in Japan due to recent scandals surrounding SDF deployments in South Sudan and elsewhere.
Background: Japan has long been under pressure from the Trump administration to contribute to U.S. efforts in the Persian Gulf to deter Iran, but has been hesitant to do so.