Patrol vessel Echigo of the Japan Coast Guard (Photo: VNA)

Tokyo (VNA) – Patrol vessel Echigo of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) will be sent to Vietnam and the Philippines to take part in joint anti-piracy drills.

The JCG announced on May 22 that the drills are part of Japan’s counter-piracy cooperation programme in Southeast Asia. Accordingly, Japan will support regional countries, including Vietnam, to strengthen their coast guard forces’ law enforcement capacity.

Echigo is set to leave Niigata port of Japan on May 24 and arrive at Da Nang port in the central region of Vietnam on June 13.

Suzuki Shiro, Head of the JCG’s International Criminal Investigation Division, said this is the first time the JCG sends a patrol ship to Vietnam since it inked a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnam Coast Guard (VCG) in September 2015. This is also the first time a patrol ship that Japan presented to Vietnam in 2015 participates in the anti-piracy drill in Da Nang.

The VCG has worked with the JCG to carry out a number of cooperation activities to improve marine security protection capacity, Shiro told Vietnam News Agency reporters.

Shiro elaborated that VCG members came to Japan to participate in a training programme to promote their law enforcement capacity. The two sides have conducted three joint training drills and the upcoming exercise will be the fourth. He voiced his belief that this cooperation process will be stepped up in the time ahead.

The officer also affirmed Japan’s viewpoint that maintaining open, safe and free seas on the basis of legal regulations is important to ensuring peace and prosperity in the region. Notably, the seas in Southeast Asia are assessed as important shipping routes in the world, and Japan is one of the countries having cargo transport activities through this region.

Although no pirate attack on Japanese ships in the Southeast Asian seas has been reported,  attacks on ships with Japanese citizens onboard happened. The number of pirate attacks in the seas near the Philippines has also increased over the past years. Therefore, the JCG has sent patrol vessels to the Southeast Asian seas since 2000 to help the regional countries strengthen marine security, he added.-VNA