The Self-Defense Forces anti-piracy mission to the Gulf of Aden, which normally consists of two destroyers, a fleet oiler, two P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, and a special forces boarding party, has been extended for a period of one year. The mission was set to end July 23rd.
The antipiracy law, which took effect in July 2009, has enabled the MSDF to provide protection to foreign-flagged commercial vessels unrelated to Japan-an act that had not been permitted under the maritime police action provision of the Self-Defence Forces Law.
Under the anti-piracy law, MSDF vessels can open fire on pirate boats that, despite warning shots close in on commercial ships.
However, the officers cannot harm pirates except in limited circumstances such as self-defence.
It sounds like the collective self-defense issues are slowly getting worked out. A broader collective self-defense policy is really needed though to deal with modern issues, on everything from the U.S.-Japan alliance to the anti-piracy mission. Example: what if pirates place a Ukrainian sailor in imminent danger once the pirates have actually boarded the commercial vessel? Are the SDF personnel prohibited from firing on the pirates to end the threat of violence? The idea that a national law is necessary to address every specific episode and formulate a Rules of Engagement is inefficient, at best. Fifty years ago that was probably a good idea, but the world has moved on.