Thursday, November 1, 2007

Japan Says Sayonara To The GWOT

Japan ends 'war on terror' mission
TOKYO, Nov 1 (AFP): Japan on Thursday ordered home ships engaged on a refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean, ending its role in the “war on terror” due to domestic opposition.

Japan supplied fuel to US and other forces operating in Afghanistan.
[The Japanese ship Tokiwa refuelling a Pakistani destroyer in the Arabian Sea on Monday, courtesy Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force via Kyodo News/AP and IHT].
Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba issued orders at 0600 GMT for Japan's two ships in the Indian Ocean -- the destroyer Kirisame and the supply ship Tokiwa -- to return to Japan.

The main opposition party, which controls one house of parliament, has vowed that Japan should not take part in “American wars.”
[Japan's Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba with former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (and flags and flowers)]

More details from the International Herald Tribune:

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda — a strong supporter of Japan's six-year-old mission — vowed to pass legislation that would allow Japan to resume a more limited role to fight terrorism in the region.

Japan, America's top ally in Asia, has refueled coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since 2001, but opposition parties, bolstered by recent election wins, effectively scuttled the mission by raising concerns it was too broad and possibly violated the Constitution.

Legislation had been passed repeatedly to renew the mission, but the latest extension expired Thursday amid a stalemate in Parliament. Japan refueled its final ship on Monday.

the failure to extend the mission was seen as a major defeat for Fukuda, who took office just over a month ago after his party suffered a setback in parliamentary elections and his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, suddenly resigned.

Officials vowed that Tokyo would soon be able to resume the mission, though opposition leaders were not likely to back down.

"In order to fulfill our responsibility for international efforts toward eradicating terrorism, we do need to continue our refueling mission," Fukuda said in a statement. "The government will do all it can to pass the special bill for the refueling mission so we can restart our mission as soon as possible."

Ozawa's Democratic Party of Japan opposes the mission because it does not have the specific mandate of the United Nations. Critics also say it violates the country's U.S.-drafted Constitution, which forbids Japan from engaging in warfare overseas.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer and envoys from coalition countries met with Japanese lawmakers on Wednesday and stressed the importance of Tokyo's refueling mission, however U.S. Defense Department Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters earlier in the week that the halt would not have "any operational impact whatsoever."