Japan expresses concern over Houthi rebels’ hijacking of cargo ship in Red Sea

The Japanese government has strongly condemned the recent hijacking of a cargo ship operated by Nippon Yusen in the Red Sea by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The rebels claimed that the ship was Israeli, but the Japanese government spokesperson confirmed that it was a car carrier registered under the Japanese company. The Japanese government is actively working towards the release of the ship and its crew.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has attributed the hijacking to Iran, which supports the Houthi militia. He described it as an “Iranian attack on an international ship” and highlighted that neither the vessel nor the crew were Israeli. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, stated that relevant ministries and agencies are collaborating with the transport ministry, foreign ministry, and other concerned countries to gather information and secure the release of the crew and the vessel.

The ship is believed to be British owned, with 22 individuals on board comprising Bulgarians and Filipinos. There are no Japanese nationals among the crew members. The military spokesman of Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Yahya al-Sarea, claimed that the ship had been taken to a Yemeni port and that it was Israeli. The Houthis previously threatened to target Israeli ships within their reach in response to Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip.

Israel launched a military operation in retaliation for an attack by Hamas militants, resulting in casualties and damage. The Hamas-run health ministry reported a death toll of 12,300 in Gaza, with an additional 2,000 individuals feared to be buried under rubble. The Houthis have fired missiles and drones towards Israel since the start of the retaliatory operation, but the US claimed that all projectiles were intercepted by its warship in the Red Sea.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deemed the attack on the ship as a “very grave incident of global consequence.” The ship was en route from Turkey to India when it was seized in the southern Red Sea near Yemen. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian suggested that resistance groups allied to Tehran were strategically pressuring Israel and its allies.

In the past, the Houthis have shot down a US military drone off Yemen’s coast. They have been engaged in a protracted civil war with Yemen’s official government, supported by Saudi Arabia, since 2014. Japan’s condemnation of the hijacking highlights the international concern over maritime safety and the escalating tensions in the region. The incident underscores the need for diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts and prevent further disruptions to global trade routes.