The Japanese destroyer Takanami returned to the Maritime Self-Defense Force base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, on Tuesday from a mission in the Middle East.
The MSDF vessel was the first Japanese destroyer to carry out information-gathering activities in the Middle East to ensure sea lane safety for ships linked to Japan, based on a decision made by the cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe late last year.
The Kirisame, another MSDF destroyer, is now in the mission, succeeding the Takanami.
The Takanami began its activities on the high seas in the northern Arabian Sea and in other waters on Feb. 26, under the Defense Ministry establishment law's Article 4, which calls for conducting necessary research and studies.
As part of the mission, the destroyer had checked the courses of a total of some 8,000 ships traveling through the area by June 9. No unusual incidents that could have triggered maritime security action based on the Self-Defense Forces law occurred during the mission.
Crew members of the Takanami took preventive measures against the novel coronavirus, such as not getting off the vessel while it was docked for replenishment.
At a ceremony held at the Yokosuka base after the return of the destroyer, Defense Minister Taro Kono thanked the Takanami crew members for their services. "I guess it was frustrating that landing was strictly restricted during the mission" due to the coronavirus pandemic, he noted.
"I'm very proud of you all for completing the mission admirably while maintaining high morale and discipline even under tough circumstances," the minister added.
Relatives of some 200 crew members did not attend the ceremony in light of the risk of infection with the coronavirus.
"I'm relieved that we have completed the mission safely," Capt. Yosuke Inaba, 48, head of the Escort Division 6 of the MSDF's Escort Flotilla 2, who led the Middle East mission, told reporters after the ceremony.
P-3C patrol aircraft of the MSDF are also engaged in the information-gathering mission in the region, as well as in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.