Two Japanese warships deployed to the Gulf of Aden in March 2009 will now assist international efforts to curb pirate attacks and hijackings, under a new law passed by the Japan Parliament.

The Japanese Naval ships, carrying 200 crew members, were previously only authorised to protect only Japanese passengers and cargo ships.

Under the new law, more authority, such as open firing at pirates ignoring warnings, has been given to the Japanese Navy, which has not involved in military hostilities since World War II.

The country’s foreign ministry reports that pirate offensive moves off Somalia’s coast increased to 111 cases in 2008.

The government has sent two reconnaissance aircraft to the Gulf of Aden in May 2009 to join more than 20 nations performing patrols.