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Japan sends warships against pirates

TOKYO, March 13 (UPI) -- Japan Friday ordered two destroyers to the coast of Somalia to protect vessels with Japanese interests from pirates, officials said.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told a Tokyo news conference it was a matter "that should be dealt with urgently."

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"The pirates in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia are a threat to Japan and the international community," he said.

The warships are to leave their base in Kure, Japan, on Saturday for the Gulf of Aden where they are expected to begin their mission in April, the KUNA news agency reported.

The destroyers are to escort Japanese-registered ships, foreign vessels with Japanese nationals or shipments on board and other ships operated by Japanese shipping firms. They also will be able to help non-Japanese interests if necessary under a new anti-piracy law.

Sixteen countries, including the United States, France and China, have sent troops to the waters off Somalia heeding a U.N. Security Council resolution urging international cooperation in deterring the constant threat of piracy in the area.

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