TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday instructed the National Security Council to study the possibility of dispatching the Self-Defense Forces near the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.
The U.S. has asked allies including Japan to join a coalition to ensure the safety of ships passing through the region. Tokyo, however, intends to keep any SDF operation separate from the coalition to avoid hurting ties with Iran, a key oil supplier with which it maintains cordial relations.
The Japanese government will carefully consider the timing of the mission as well as the legal basis for sending the SDF overseas. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the government will look at sending "new assets" from the SDF while also exploring the possibility of "utilizing the existing pirate-combat unit."
Foreign security operations remain a sensitive topic in Japan, as entanglement in a conflict could be seen as a violation of the country's constitution.
The SDF is likely to patrol the Gulf of Oman, the northern Arabian Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, Suga said.
The U.S. call for assistance follows attacks on two oil tankers near the strait in June.