A helicopter from the Japanese Self- Defense Force hovers above a coast guard boat off the coast. The exercise occurred near the Kure Naval Base in Hiroshima during an antipiracy drill in 2009. To continue its fight against piracy, Japan is opening its first overseas base in Djibouti, a small African country strategically located at the southern end of the Red Sea on the Gulf of Aden.
Expected to be completed by early 2011, the $40 million base strengthens international efforts to curb hijackings and vessel attacks by gangs of gunmen from the lawless regions of Somalia. “We are deploying here to fight piracy and for our self-defense,” said Capt. Keizo Kitagawa of Japan’s Naval Force. “Japan is a maritime nation, and the increase in piracy in the Gulf of Aden through which 20,000 vessels sail every year is worrying.”
Kitagawa, who is coordinator of the deployment, explained that 10 percent of the Gulf of Aden’s traffic comes from Japan. Ninety percent of Japanese exports depend on this crucial sea lane that was almost overrun by the marauding pirates two years ago.