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Japanese PM pledges quick return to anti-terrorism mission in the Indian Ocean

Japanese PM pledges quick return to anti-terrorism mission in the Indian Ocean

Japan's prime minister pledged Tuesday to resume naval operations near Afghanistan after a political standoff over Tokyo's role in the global fight against terrorism forced the country to end its mission last year.
"At this very moment in the Indian Ocean, numerous countries are cooperating carrying on their fight against terrorism," Yasuo Fukuda said in a New Year's statement.
"I want Japan to be working hard for the world along with other countries as soon as possible," Fukuda said.
Japan's six-year naval mission to the region, which began in 2001, provided logistical support to troops in Afghanistan _ mainly providing coalition warships with fuel and water.
Japan provided almost 500,000 kiloliters (132 million gallons) of fuel in the Indian Ocean to coalition warships, including those from the U.S., Britain and Pakistan, according to the Defense Ministry.
But the dispatch was recalled on Nov. 1 after opposition parties raised concerns the operations did not have explicit support from the United Nations. The opposition also said the mission possibly violated Japan's pacifist constitution.
The sudden retreat was a major embarrassment for Fukuda, who has been a staunch supporter of a continued presence for Japan in the region, and has cast doubt on how far Tokyo can back Washington in its global war on terrorism.
Fukuda's government has submitted a bill to parliament that would allow the ships to be deployed again, but in a more limited role.
The ruling bloc extended the parliament session to Jan. 15 and is expected to use its majority in the powerful lower house to push the bill through the upper chamber, which is controlled by the opposition.
Under the new bill, Japan's deployment would be limited to refueling and supplying water to craft used in monitoring and inspecting vessels suspected of links to terrorism or arms smuggling. Ships would not refuel coalition vessels directly involved in troop activities in Afghanistan.
The mission was part of efforts by Japan, which is trying to win a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, to play a bigger role in world diplomacy by participating in more global peacekeeping missions.
Japan sent troops to Iraq on a non-combat, humanitarian mission in 2003, and joined in rescue efforts after a tsunami devastated South Asia in 2004. It withdrew from Iraq last year, but maintains an air force presence in Kuwait.
In his New Year's statement, Fukuda also promised to spearhead efforts against climate change in 2008 after Japan takes over the presidency of the Group of Eight industrial countries from Germany.
Japan has fallen far behind its Kyoto Protocol commitments to cut greenhouse gases emissions.
"By sharing the world's most advanced technology, Japan is prepared to play a major role" in the fight against climate change, Fukuda said.
Japan is slated to host the G-8 summit in July at a hot spring resort in the north of the country.


Updated : 2021-04-24 01:53 GMT+08:00