Japan ends Afghan support mission

Japan has ordered the withdrawal of its two ships supporting US-led operations in Afghanistan following the government’s failure to agree a deal with the opposition to extend the mission beyond the end of its mandate on Nov. 1. The administration of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has said it would try to pass new legislation to allow a more limited mission. “The government will make its utmost effort… to resume an important mission in the Indian Ocean,” chief Cabinet spokesman Nobutaka Machimura said. Japan has refuelled coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since 2001.

The end of the mission came in spite of strong objections from Washington and Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Fukuda, who became prime minister in September, was unable to extend emergency anti-terror legislation because the upper house is now controlled by the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP), which opposes the mission. DJP leader Ichiro Ozawa is accused by the LDP of using the refuelling issue to paralyze parliament in an effort to force an early election.

The US embassy said that Washington is “disappointed that operations have been suspended.” Ambassador Thomas Schieffer said a permanent withdrawal would send a bad message to the international community and terrorists. (BBC, FT, Nov. 1)

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