Japan Opens Military Base in Djibouti to Help Combat Piracy

Japan opened a military base in Djibouti that will be used to help combat piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa, said Admiral Kenichi Kuramoto, commander of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Japan has about 600 people in the MSDF, 180 of whom will be stationed at the base near the main international airport in the capital, Djibouti City, Kuramoto said. He spoke at a ceremony yesterday attended by Djiboutian Prime Minister Mohamed Dileita Dileita and Japanese Senior Vice Defense Minister Katsuya Ogawa.

Japan’s government today extended the MSDF’s anti-piracy mission off Somalia, which was scheduled to end on July 23, Kyodo News reported today, without citing anyone.

An increase in piracy, spurred by a 36-fold jump in ransom payments in five years, has threatened vessels carrying 20 percent of world trade and raised expenses for shippers. Costs linked to piracy may reach $13 billion to $15 billion by 2015 as global trade rebounds and pirates operate over wider areas, according to research firm Geopolicity Inc.

Under Japanese law, MSDF can open fire on pirate vessels that approach commercial vessels after warning shots have been fired, Kyodo said today. They aren’t allowed to harm pirates except in self defense, it said.

Japanese forces arrived in Djibouti in 2009 and have been stationed at Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. military base in Djibouti. The Japanese base is expected to generate $30 million in annual revenue for Djibouti, according to the government.