The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has announced that two destroyers will be dispatched to the ongoing anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia in July 2009.

The two warships will sail into the gulf waters on 6 July 2009 with a combined crew of 420 as substitutes for the two destroyers that have been in the region since March 2009.

Defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said that the crew members were trained to carry out the new mission which will take effect on 24 July 2009.

The destroyers with expanded rules of engagement will fire at the pirate vessels that approach any commercial ships.

Japan also dispatched two maritime surveillance aircraft and scores of military personnel to the region to strengthen the mission.

The Japanese maritime force joined the operation in March 2009, in which the US, China and more than 20 other countries are participating to fight pirates.