TOKYO: Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono said Friday he believes that a Maritime Self-Defense Force unit is unlikely to get caught in an armed conflict during its upcoming mission in the Middle East.
"The United States and Iran are not using armed force," Kono said of the current situation in the Middle East. He was speaking at a meeting of the Committee on Security of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, Japan's parliament.
Referring to heightened tensions caused by the killing of a top Iranian commander by the United States early this month, Kono said that Japan needs to strengthen its information-gathering activities although there is no immediate need for protecting Japanese ships in the region.
"Both the United States and Iran have clearly shown their intentions to prevent the situation from escalating further," Kono said.
"If the situation changes drastically, the Japanese government will discuss responses at its National Security Council, including a possible end of the mission," he said.
Last week, Kono ordered the MSDF to dispatch a destroyer and two P-3C patrol planes to the Middle East on a mission to ensure sea lane safety in the region.
The patrol planes left Japan on Saturday, planning to start their activities in the Middle East from Monday. The Takanami destroyer will depart on Feb. 2 and begin its mission from late February.