NATO and Japan conducted a joint counter-piracy drill in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday (25 September 2014) to test communications and tactical skills. It was the first such joint naval exercise between the two maritime fleets. “By synchronizing our activities and sharing information we stand a much better chance to secure the waters in the region and thereby keeping the sea lanes safe and secure,” said Commodore Aage Buur Jensen, the commander of NATO’s counter-piracy mission, Operation Ocean Shield.
The exercise involved the Japanese destroyer JS Takanami and the Danish frigate HDMS Ebern Snare, currently the flagship of the NATO mission. Thursday’s drills included a range of tasks including the boarding and securing of ships and communication procedures. “There is no doubt that the Japan Maritime Self Defence Forces are an important and very capable actor in the region and I am truly looking forward to expanding the fine cooperation NATO has with Japan,” said the Danish Commodore.
NATO ships have patrolled the waters off the Horn of Africa since 2009, part of broader international efforts to crack down on Somali-based pirates who threaten world shipping. NATO’s Ocean Shield operation as well as European Union and other counter-piracy missions have significantly reduced attacks in the region. However, pirates continue to have the intent and capacity to attack ships.
Japan is a valued partner for NATO. In May 2014 NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe of Japan signed an agreement to further political dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO and Japan, including in the areas of counter piracy, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.