Japan PM forces naval bill approval

Government takes rarely used steps to force naval mission through parliament.

    The scaled-down mission will no longer refuel warships involved in military operations [AFP]

    In November the prime minister, who is a staunch supporter of the naval support mission, had to order Japanese ships back to port after a resurgent opposition blocked efforts to renew the deployment.

     

    The pullout was an embarrassment for Yasuo Fukuda, casting doubt on how far Japan could support the US-led "war on terror".

     

    'National interest'

     

    Friday's vote marks the first time in more than 50 years that the Japanese government has used its majority to override legislation.

     

    Akio Sato, a ruling party MP, told parliament before the vote that "it is of great detriment to Japan that this mission, which addresses international needs and is in our national interest, has been suspended".

     

    "Japan must join the world in the fight against terrorism," he said.

     

    The main opposition Democratic party, which took control of the upper chamber in elections last year, opposes the mission because it says it violates Japan's pacifist constitution and military operations in Afghanistan do not have explicit UN support.

     

    The Democrats submitted an alternative bill that would focus more on humanitarian aid within Afghanistan, rather than support for military missions.

     

    Democratic legislator Hiroe Makiyama said Japan needed to "send shovels not guns, and water not fuel".

     

    Rare move

     

    Fukuda has earlier tried to reach a compromise with the Democrats, even raising a power-sharing proposal between the two parties.

     

    But the opposition refused to co-operate, triggering parliamentary gridlock and forcing Fukuda to use the ruling coalition's lower house majority to ram the bill through parliament.

     

    The move is exceedingly rare in Japan, where the government strives to maintain the appearance of consensus rule.

     

    The last time the lower house overruled a rejection by the upper house was in 1951.

     

    Fukuda's ruling party also extended the parliamentary session by a month to mid-January to ensure the bill's approval.

     

    Although the bill has now been approved - sending Japanese naval ships back to the Indian Ocean as early as next month - the mission will be significantly scaled down.

     

    It will be limited to refuelling and supplying water to ships used in monitoring and inspecting vessels suspected of links to terrorism or arms smuggling.

     

    Warships directly involved in military operations inside Afghanistan will not be refuelled.

     

    Japan had in the past six years provided logistical support to forces involved in the war in Afghanistan, mainly supplying fuel to warships.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Do you really know the price of milk?

    Do you really know the price of milk?

    Answer as many correct questions as you can and see where your country ranks in the global cost of living.

    The Coming War on China

    The Coming War on China

    Journalist John Pilger on how the world's greatest military power, the US, may well be on the road to war with China.