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Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.23 (March 19, 2009)

"Protecting life and property"
-- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Taro AsoProfile Japanese

At just past 10 o'clock in the morning on April 21 of last year, a Japanese oil tanker was attacked by pirates as it passed by the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, which is located some 12,000 kilometers from Japan. The tanker was headed toward a port in Saudi Arabia to receive a shipment of crude oil. Shots were fired at the hull of the tanker, damaging the stern and causing tanker fuel to spill out into the sea.

The German frigate Emden, responding to a distress signal put out by the tanker, came rushing to the rescue. Thanks to the intervention of the Emden, all of the members of the tanker's crew managed to escape injury.

The waters in which the incident occurred, near East Africa, off the coast of Somalia, in the Gulf of Aden, are connected to the Red Sea, which leads into the Suez Canal. The area is a major route for maritime shipping. On average, four to five vessels related to Japan pass through these waters every day, a total of approximately 2,000 vessels every year.

In recent years, incidents of piracy have been frequent in these waters. Last year, there was one incident approximately every three days, an annual total of 111 incidents. There have already been incidents in which pirates have boarded vessels related to Japan and held Japanese nationals hostage.

In accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions, countries around the world are dispatching naval vessels to escort other vessels through these waters. Japan, for its part, has decided to dispatch its Self-Defense Forces to the waters off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, for the purpose of conducting maritime security operations.

Last Saturday, I visited the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Kure Base in Hiroshima Prefecture to see off the destroyers Sazanami and Samidare.

"Protecting Japanese lives and property is one of the most important tasks of the government... You are embarking on a new duty that brings with it danger and difficulty. You will carry out this task in an environment in which the weather, culture, language, and customs differ substantially from what you are used to."

These were the words that I spoke to the approximately 400 members of the Maritime Self-Defense Force and eight members of the Japan Coast Guard who stood in front of me in neat rows. Every one of them looked me in the eye with a valiant expression, conveying to me the strong sense of mission they possessed for the completion of their assigned task. I felt enormously proud.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force then set out for the first time ever on a mission to protect vessels related to Japan. In the port, a blue banner with the words "Thank you, Maritime Self- Defense Force!" written in white letters, fluttered intensely in the wind. It showed the gratitude of citizens involved in maritime transportation.

Many family members came to see off the personnel as they set sail for their new posts, 12,000 kilometers away. Among the family members were wives cradling babies, and senior citizens.

Seeing the gathered family members bid the personnel farewell, I felt keenly their wishes for the safe return of their loved ones. I could also feel their hope for the personnel to complete, as the representatives of Japan, the noble mission of protecting Japanese lives and property.

Having completed their rigorous daily training, the personnel are ready to carry out the task that awaits them. I would like to express my utmost respect for them. I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to their families, who look after the homes of the personnel while they are away.

I sincerely wish that all the members of the maritime force will complete their task and return safely to Japan.

* Profile of the Prime Minister

[What's New in Government Internet TV]

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[Prime Minister's Week in Review]
- Enactment of Laws related to the Second Supplementary Budget of Fiscal 2008 and other topics (March 2 - 8, 2009)

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[What's up around the Prime Minister]

- The Prime Minister Attends a Ceremony for the Departure of a Maritime Force to be Dispatched off the Coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden (March 14, 2009) and others

* Please click below to open the online magazine "Highlighting JAPAN," which introduces the main policies of the Japanese Government, as well as Japan's arts, culture, science and technology, among other topics.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Taro Aso
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Jun Matsumoto
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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