File Photo: Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya speaks during a news conference at Defence Ministry in Tokyo, Japan (Reuters)
Japan’s defense minister says he has no intention of sending Japanese troops to respond to attacks on a Japanese-operated oil tanker in the Middle East.
Takeshi Iwaya told reporters at a Friday news conference that the situation is not considered an imminent threat to Japan.
His remarks came after a Japanese-operated tanker headed to Singapore was attacked on Thursday while traveling in the Gulf of Oman, just as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was wrapping up his high-stakes visit in Tehran to help de-escalate regional tension.
All 21 Filipino crewmembers pf the vessel were rescued and were now on a US warship.
Iwaya says Japan doesn’t think the so-called “Self-Defense Force has a necessarily role to play at this point and we don’t plan to send them to the Strait of Hormuz region in response to the attacks.”
The Japanese ship operator says sailors on board the Kokuka Courageous, one of the vessels attacked near the Strait of Hormuz, saw “flying objects” just before the attack, suggesting the tanker wasn’t damaged by mines.
That account contradicts what the US military has said as it released a video it says shows Iranian forces removing an unexploded limpet mine from one of the two ships in the suspected attack.
The Japanese tanker carrying petroleum products to Singapore and Thailand was attacked twice while traveling near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, damaging the tanker and forcing all 21 crewmembers to evacuate.
Company president Yutaka Katada said Friday he believes the flying objects seen by the sailors could be bullets, and denied possibility of mines or torpedoes because the damages were above the ship’s waterline. He called reports of mine attack “false.”
Katada said the crew members also spotted an Iranian naval ship nearby, but did not specify whether that was before or after the attacks. The tanker survived the first attack that hit near the engine room, followed by another causing damage to the star-board side toward the back.
Iran rejects a US accusation against Tehran over suspected attacks on two oil tankers in Gulf of Oman, near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.