Statement by Prime Minister Taro Aso
Today, the Cabinet took the decision to approve the "Draft Law on the Penalisation of Acts of Piracy and Measures against Acts of Piracy", also known as the "Anti-Piracy Measures Bill". This bill establishes a legal system for measures against piracy, consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Cabinet also took a decision "On the Approval of the Prime Minister concerning Maritime Security Operations". This is a decision to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces, as an emergency measure during the short term, to conduct maritime security operations provided for in the Self-Defense Forces Law so as to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.
For Japan, which is surrounded by the sea and for which foreign trade holds a high degree of importance, including its dependence on the importation of a large proportion of major resources, ensuring the security of maritime traffic is critical for its economy and society and for the daily lives of its people.
In particular, acts of piracy have recently been frequent and have increased rapidly off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. These waters are a major route for vessels related to Japan, and these acts of piracy constitute a threat to both Japan and the international community and are an issue that must be addressed with great urgency. In these waters, there have been not only damage to the vessels of Japanese companies but also incidents of Japanese nationals being taken hostage, and there is concern that further such incidents may arise. The Japanese Shipowners' Association and others have urged the government to reinforce its measures against acts of piracy, including the development of a legal system.
In keeping with the responsibilities that Japan should clearly discharge as a member of international society, the Anti-Piracy Measures Bill which the Cabinet took the decision to approve today establishes acts of piracy as criminal acts under Japanese law and establishes punitive provisions for such acts while also stipulating among other things the expansion of protection to vessels of all countries, not just those of Japan. I am determined to devote my utmost efforts to the enactment of this bill.
In particular, with regard to piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, countries have been requested inter alia to dispatch naval vessels, based on a series of resolutions including Resolution 1816 of the United Nations Security Council. In response, international measures to counter piracy have already begun, with countries and organisations in Europe, North America, Asia and elsewhere dispatching inter alia naval vessels. In order to protect Japanese lives and property, as an emergency measure in the short term until the Anti-Piracy Measures Bill is enacted, Japan, for its part, has decided first to dispatch its Self-Defense Forces to these waters to conduct maritime security operations provided for in the Self-Defense Forces Law.
I take pride in the Self-Defense Forces personnel and Japan Coast Guard officials, who through this dispatch will be undertaking the important mission of ensuring the security of maritime traffic amidst severe climatic conditions. I express my deep gratitude, along with my sincere respect, to the personnel who will undertake this mission as well as to their families who will see them off.
In closing, I sincerely request the understanding and cooperation of the Japanese people.