- Title: AT SEA: Japan navy ships pull out of Afghan mission
- Date: 2nd November 2007
- Summary: (BN04) AT SEA, NORTHERN PART OF THE INDIAN OCEAN (NOVEMBER 1, 2007) (REUTERS) CLOCK SHOWING 1900 LOCAL TIME (1500 GMT) ON THE BRIDGE OF THE TOKIWA JAPANESE SELF DEFENCE FORCE SUPPLY VESSEL SHIP PERSONNEL WATCHING MESSAGE FROM DEFENSE MINISTER SHIGERU ISHIBA CALLING THEM BACK HOME VARIOUS OF JAPANESE SELF DEFENCE SAILORS WATCHING THE MESSAGE SHIP'S COMMANDER YOSHITAKA OJIMA SPEAKING VARIOUS OF JAPANESE SAILORS WAVING GOODBYE
- Embargoed: 17th November 2007 12:00
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVA5YLMSK23DT4VRHANPBI1AW3OU
- Story Text: Japanese navy ships on mission to back-up U.S. led operations in Afghanistan return home after government fails to secure an extension for the mission.
Japanese naval ships in the Indian Ocean turned around and headed home on Thursday (November 1) after a midnight (1500 GMT) deadline for the Japanese government to pass a law extending their activities, expired in Tokyo.
The Japanese government is caught in a deadlock with opposition parties over support of the U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is caught between close ally Washington, which is pressing for enactment of a new bill to allow Japan's navy to keep providing free fuel for U.S. and other ships patrolling the Indian Ocean, and a resurgent opposition set on blocking new legislation now before parliament.
Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba told members of the mission via a video-taped message that the Japanese government will seek an early enactment of a new law to resume the Indian Ocean refuelling mission soon.
The Pentagon said this week that Japan's withdrawal would not affect its patrolling of the Indian Ocean for drug smugglers, gun runners and suspected terrorists.
The naval mission -- now certain to be halted for months if not longer -- is sure to be on the agenda when U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visits Japan next week as well as at a summit between Fukuda and President George W. Bush that media say will take place in Washington on Nov. 16.
Japan has supplied fuel and water worth about 22 billion yen ($190 million) over the six years of the mission.
Tokyo is now considering fresh aid to Pakistan -- the only Islamic country taking part in the naval operations -- as well as to Afghanistan to offset return of its refueling ships.
Overseas dispatches are controversial in Japan, where the military is restrained by the post-World War Two pacifist constitution. Japanese voters are divided over this one, with just under 50 percent in favour of extending it.
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