Japan ends Afghan support mission
Naval tankers carry out last operation as politicans fail to reach agreement.
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2007 08:26 GMT

Sailors on the Tokiwa cheered as it carried out its last refuelling in support of the Afghan mission  [AFP]

Japanese naval tankers have carried out their last refuelling operation in support of US-led operations in Afghanistan, after the country's two largest parties failed to reach an agreement on continuing the mission.

No further operations were planned by the naval support fleet before the mission's mandate expires on November 1.
On Tuesday, Yasuo Fukuda, the prime minister, met Ichiro Ozawa, the opposition leader, who has vowed to fight the legislation.

"I asked for his party's co-operation regarding the new anti-terrorism bill and explained the situation, but as of today we did not reach any agreement," Fukuda said.

Ozawa, who is pushing for an early general election, has said that Japan should not be part of "American wars".
"I told him that I cannot approve of it," Ozawa said.


"We need to have principles, which means that unless it's part of UN operations, it would not be possible."

Fukuda argues that Japan, as the world's second largest economy, must play a greater role in global security. Shinzo Abe, his predecessor, abruptly resigned last month, partly because of his failure to extend the mission.

Japan's so-called pacifist constitution forbids its armed forces from carrying out anything but defensive missions, but the government has been trying to revise legislation allowing for a more active defence policy.

The last ship refuelled by the Japanese support mission was a Pakistani navy destroyer.


As they carried out the final operation about 70 crew members from the supply ship Tokiwa appeared on deck, cheering and singing the Japanese national anthem, Japan's Kyodo news agency said.


Japan is a major US ally in Asia and has refuelled warships supporting US-led forces in Afghanistan since 2001.


Washington has been urging the Japanese government to extend the mission.

A recent survey by Kyodo found that 46.4 per cent of the Japanese public supported the naval deployment and 42.9 per cent were opposed, with the rest undecided.

Some analysts said that the suspension of the mission showed how Fukuda's Liberal Democratic Party had been weakened.


"I think the United States, Europe and other nations understand the snag came due to domestic politics, not a change of course by Japan as a whole," Takehiko Yamamoto, a security expert at Waseda University, said.

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