The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force's Aegis-equipped destroyer Kirishima left Yokosuka on 16 December, to join the US-led anti-terrorism campaign in the Indian Ocean. Japan's warship can link up with the advanced US defense data network to share gathered intelligence. The destroyer, with a crew of about 250, is scheduled to arrive in the Indian Ocean in about three weeks and replace one of three Japanese naval vessels currently deployed in the area. Japan's Self-Defense Force has the world's third largest military budget and is armed with state-of-the-art weapons, including four 7,250-ton Aegis destroyers. Another is on order and funds have been required for one more.
The Japanese government has no desire to rerun its diplomatic humiliation during the 1991 Gulf War, when it failed to send even token troops. In 2001, a law was passed enabling the country to deploy naval ships to support the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan -- its first military dispatch into a war situation since World War Two. This development has encouraged Chinese and opposition parties in Japan speculation that the government is using its military to assume a higher international profile. With Japanese nationalism on the rise, it might be natural for some Japanese to call on the armed forces to play a more active role in its foreign policy. If it makes Beijing think twice, then Japan is getting a proper Return On Investment. - Adam Geibel