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Japan eyes naval refueling for anti-piracy mission

Japan eyes naval refueling for anti-piracy mission

Japan is considering sending warships to help refuel vessels combating piracy off Somalia after its current refueling mission in support of the U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan ends early next year, officials said Tuesday.
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters that Japan is "definitely" withdrawing its naval refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in January, but may provide similar support off the Somali coast for the international fight against pirates.
"It's quite likely the case," Kitazawa said. "It would be good to use our expertise of refueling somewhere else."
Kitazawa's comment comes amid growing concerns that a rift may be emerging between the U.S. and Japan after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's government suggested it would like to make changes to a 2006 agreement to revise the American military presence in the country, as well as end the Indian Ocean refueling mission.
Japanese officials have said that Tokyo's contribution for Afghanistan's reconstruction would focus on areas such as stronger police, agriculture and job training, rather than the naval refueling mission, which started in 2001.
Japan has been studying alternative contributions for Afghanistan ahead of President Barack Obama's Nov. 12-13 visit. Hatoyama's government believes Japan should take measures other than involving the military to help Afghanistan. Other opponents of the mission have said it may have violated Japan's pacifist constitution.
Kitazawa said a new mission would be aimed at the anti-piracy effort and is not meant to make up for cancellation of the Indian Ocean naval mission because it is not related to Afghanistan. However, he said it is a "significant" international contribution and indicated that the ministry planned to have a proposal ready in time for Obama's visit.
"We will be prepared so that we can quickly respond whenever there is a request," he said.
Japan deployed two destroyers and a pair of surveillance planes to the Gulf of Aden in March to escort Japanese and foreign vessels. The deployment was the country's first postwar overseas policing action.
Japan's military is limited to defensive missions under the country's post-World War II constitution and its forays overseas have been restricted to refueling, airlifting and humanitarian activities.


Updated : 2021-07-28 03:36 GMT+08:00