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Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009

MSDF tour serves Japan, DPJ told

Staff writer

Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said Friday the incoming government led by the Democratic Party of Japan must clarify how it intends to participate in the war on terrorism if it intends to end the Maritime Self-Defense Force's mission in the Indian Ocean.

News photo
Solemn moment: U.S. Air Force ranks offer a silent prayer Friday during a ceremony at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa to mark the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. KYODO PHOTO

Touching on the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, Nakasone told reporters that the refueling mission by the MSDF should not be mistaken as unrelated to Japan's interests.

"The efforts conducted in the Indian Ocean may seem distant from us, but 24 Japanese lives were taken" in 9/11, the foreign minister said, adding that Tokyo must maintain its role in the U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.

Although Japan has provided fuel to its allies for several years, the DPJ indicated it will end the MSDF's participation as early as January, when a temporary law allowing the dispatch expires. The DPJ and its minor coalition partners, especially the Social Democratic Party, claim the mission contravenes the war-renouncing Constitution.

But while the DPJ said it will continue its antiterrorism efforts through different means, Nakasone questioned what that would entail.

"Japan already takes part in a variety of humanitarian assistance" in Afghanistan, Nakasone said, including support in rebuilding efforts and medical programs. The foreign minister reiterated that the MSDF dispatch is highly thought of by many of his counterparts, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"I personally believe the MSDF mission must continue," he said.

Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada also expressed support for the MSDF dispatch, describing it as a key part of Japan's contribution to antiterrorism efforts.

On Thursday, Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki said it is up to the new government to decide what kind of support it will offer U.S.-led antiterrorism operations.

"When the new administration will be formed, the government will consider and discuss the matter," Fujisaki told a news conference. "It is up to Japan to decide what contributions to offer."

Information from Kyodo added

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