Step by step – sometimes almost painfully so – the Japanese are getting themselves back into the game:
The lower house of Japan’s parliament has approved a bill to allow the country’s naval ships to take a bigger role in fighting pirates off Somalia.
The bill will mean the navy can escort non-Japanese ships and use weapons for more than just self-defence purposes.
Although the bill is likely to be rejected by the upper house, the government can still turn it into law.
Apparently the way that works is that the government, if it wants to, can have the bill reintroduced into the lower house of the Japanese parliament – which would then presumably pass it again.
This government almost certainly wants to; current Prime Minister Taro Aso has been quietly but firmly continuing the military… readjustments… done by his predecessor Shinzo Abe. That includes things like the first light aircraft carrier helicopter-carrying destroyer that just got delivered to the Imperial Japanese Navy Maritime Self-Defense Force (a comparison of the JMSDF Hyuga and HMS Invincible should prove instructive, especially when you consider that retrofitting the ramp from the latter onto the former doesn’t look impossibly difficult). I’m going to speculate that the current Japanese government is looking to expand its role in the pirate-hunting business in order to further acclimate its citizens to the idea that there are appropriate times for Japan to engage in power projection. These days, it’s the Japanese citizenry itself that probably have the most relevant objections to the idea – although the Chinese and both Koreas might contest that. Then again, given that the USA would like the Japanese to be able to front a force that can help keep two of those three countries in check, I find that I can bear up under the disapproval of quasi-Communists with some fortitude.
Besides, we actually could use the help on anti-piracy patrols. It’s not like we get paid to be the world’s policemen.