A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer has left Japan for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, amid continued attacks on vessels in the region by Yemen's Houthi rebels.
The Sazanami will replace another MSDF destroyer, Akebono, which is currently on an anti-piracy mission in the area.
Sazanami left with its 206-member crew from its base in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture on Thursday, sent off by family and other MSDF members. The crew includes members from the Japan Coast Guard.
In the send-off ceremony, Rear Admiral Kawamura Shinichi of Japan's Self-Defense Fleet, said unexpected incidents could occur in the waters where the Sazanami is being deployed. But he said he believes they can deal with the situation appropriately and carry out their mission.
Sazanami is scheduled to replace the destroyer Akebono by about mid-March and start its roughly four months' mission.
The Gulf of Aden connects with the Red Sea through a strait. Houthi rebels have been repeatedly attacking vessels navigating waters in and around the Red Sea.
In November last year, ballistic missiles were launched into waters near where Akebono was operating. The US military said they were fired from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.
Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force says it will monitor developing situations in the region and gather information to do all it can to ensure the safety of the vessel and crew.