Japan, U.S., 11 other nations urge Houthis to end attacks in Red Sea

Japan, the United States and 11 other countries on Wednesday urged Yemen's pro-Iranian Houthi rebels to immediately stop attacks on vessels transiting the Red Sea.

In a joint statement, the countries also including Australia, Bahrain, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands accused the Houthi armed group of threatening innocent lives and the freedom of navigation in one of the world's most important waterways.

They also demanded that the group swiftly release unlawfully detained vessels and crews.

"The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy and free flow of commerce in the region's critical waterways," the statement said, noting that nearly 15 percent of global seaborne trade goes through the Red Sea.

The crew members detained include those of a cargo ship operated by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K., better known as NYK Line, which was seized by the group in November.

While the attacks have disrupted international trade, with many shipping companies pausing transits through the Red Sea, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced last month the establishment of a multinational force to protect vessels traveling there.

During a press briefing, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Singapore joined the 12 countries following the release of the statement that demonstrates "the resolve of global partners against these unlawful attacks and underlines our commitment to holding malign actors accountable for their actions."

The other partners that signed the document are Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy and New Zealand.

© Kyodo News