TOKYO, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Japan sends two Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) destroyers for anti-piracy missions off Somalia Monday under a new law authorizing them to escort commercial ships of any nationality.
The 4,550-ton Harusame departed from its base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the 3,500-ton Amagiri left its base in Maizuru, Kyoto Prefecture, both in the afternoon.
The destroyers will take over escort roles later this month from two other destroyers that have been operating in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden since March.
Two MSDF P-3C Orion surveillance airplanes have also been dispatched to the African country of Djibouti to provide patrol flights over the gulf and convey information on suspicious ships to commercial ships and foreign navies.
The Japanese parliament enacted an anti-piracy law on June 19 expanding the Self-Defense Forces (SDF)'s protection mission to any commercial ship from pirates, regardless of a Japanese connection.
In addition to lifting the limitation on ships, the new anti-piracy law also allows Japan's destroyers to fire at pirates in case of they ignore repeated warnings and deemed as dangerous.
Opposition parties have criticized the legislation, arguing the law will pave way for dispatch of the SDF abroad at will, which is a sensitive issue in Japan due to constitutional limits on the use of force.
In a related development, a number of major countries, including the United States, the European Union countries, Russia and China have send navies to the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden to protect commercial ships from pirates.