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Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008

Nations swap papers limiting MSDF fuel use


Staff writer

Diplomatic notes were exchanged Tuesday in Tokyo between Japan and nations whose ships will receive fuel when the Maritime Self-Defense Force resumes its Indian Ocean support mission, with the understanding that the fuel will be used only for U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.

Following the Jan. 11 enactment of a new special antiterrorism law, two MSDF ships left last month to resume the refueling mission.

The MSDF duties were halted Nov. 1 when the previous special law on antiterrorism cooperation expired. The contentious mission came under fire from the opposition camp over allegations some of the fuel provided to U.S. warships may have been diverted for use in the war in Iraq.

Japan exchanged the documents with the U.S., Britain, Pakistan and France and will soon do so with Canada and Germany, Foreign Ministry officials said.

In addition to the conditions included in the notes exchanged under the previous law, Tuesday's documents specifically underline that the law only allows Japan to supply fuel and water to warships engaged in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom-Maritime Interdiction Operation in and near Afghanistan.

Another new clause stipulates Japan will hold discussions with the recipient nations to ensure the law is followed.

The three conditions carried over from the previous law are that the recipient countries get fuel and water from the MSDF in line with Japan's antiterrorism law, that the fuel and water supplied not be used in a way that runs counter to the U.N. Charter and that the supplies must not be passed onto a third country without Japan's consent.

A Foreign Ministry official said clarifying the scope of the law in the notes will ensure the supplies are limited to the OEF-MIO.

It was reported that an additional clause was being considered calling for Japan and the recipient countries to trace the use of the fuel, but this plan was scrapped due to U.S. opposition.

To prevent unauthorized use of the fuel, Tokyo has sent liaison officers to Bahrain, where the coalition forces have a coordination base, the Defense Ministry said.

The officers expect to be briefed on missions carried out by the vessels receiving the MSDF fuel support.

In November, after checking all 794 refueling operations between December 2001 and last November, the Defense Ministry released a report concluding that fuel provided by the MSDF in the Indian Ocean was not used for the Iraq war.

But the ministry acknowledged it was not able to obtain all the necessary data and said some cases were based on assumptions.



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