Japan's defense minister has inspected a Self-Defense Force unit in the East African nation of Djibouti following Cabinet approval of an SDF mission in the Middle East.
Taro Kono visited the unit on Saturday. Its members have been engaged in anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden.
The minister checked the operations of P-3C patrol planes and living conditions in the barracks.
The government will use the aircraft to gather information to ensure commercial ships with ties to Japan can safely navigate in the Middle East. An SDF destroyer will also join the mission.
Ahead of the inspection, Kono met Djibouti's Defense Minister Hassan Omar Mohamed Bourhan to explain the SDF mission in the Middle East and seek his understanding of it.
Kono told reporters that the SDF members will do all they can to ensure the safety of Japan-related ships in the Middle East.
He said Japan will work with the international community to protect freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aden, which is a very important sea lane for the country's maritime shipments.