(Bloomberg) -- Japan will send a naval destroyer to the Middle East next month for a previously planned deployment as tensions ramp up in the region after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general last week and Tehran responded with an attack on U.S.-Iraqi airbases.
Tokyo, which has a military alliance with the U.S. and good ties with Iran, will deploy on Feb. 2 the Maritime Self-Defense Force contingent that also includes two patrol planes.
The group will be on an intelligence gathering mission to aid in stable shipping in waters that play a major role in global energy transport, the Defense Ministry said Friday while ordering the deployment. It will operate in areas that include the Gulf of Oman and the northern Arabian Sea, the ministry said.
The cabinet in December approved the move to send the mission to the region that accounts for almost 90% of the country’s oil imports, but didn’t send a date for the start of the dispatch. Japanese officials have repeatedly said this will be separate from U.S.-led operations in the area, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had invited Japan to join.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has called for diplomacy to calm tensions, will leave for the Middle East on Saturday for a trip that is expected to take him to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
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