In this Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces' (SDF) first long-term intelligence mission abroad, it is expected that the 4,650-ton "Takanami" ship will join other troops who were sent to the area last month, reports Efe news.
"The intelligence-gathering mission bears very significant meaning that is directly linked to people's lives," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at an event in Yokosuka while sending off the ship and its around 200 personnel.
The mission began with patrol planes sent to the region on January 20 and will continue to December 26, according to the government.
It aims to gather information to safeguard shipping routes in the Middle East, from which Japan imports 90 per cent of the oil it consumes.
Tokyo plans to rotate defence force destroyers in three four-month tours over the course of the mission, which could be prolonged if approved by Abe's Cabinet.
The approval of the Cabinet does not have to be submitted to parliamentary scrutiny.
The deployment is being carried out in areas of the Gulf of Oman, in the north of the Arabian Sea and in the vicinity of the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait, the southern entrance to the Red Sea, to where P-3C patrol planes have already been mobilized by Japan.
The government's decision to deploy its assets to the area has been criticized by the opposition at a time of growing tension between the United States and Iran.
The Japanese mission is independent of the operations of a multinational force led by Washington whose main objective is to guarantee the safety of the Strait of Hormuz.
The deployment of this Japanese force and the areas it will focus on was discussed between Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at their bilateral meeting in Tokyo last December.
( With inputs from IANS )