Japan’s governing party pushed through a law on Friday to extend a refueling mission by its navy in the Indian Ocean, allowing Tokyo to keep its small but symbolic presence in the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party used its majority in Parliament’s more powerful lower house to override an earlier rejection of the bill by the opposition-controlled upper house. It was the second time this year that the governing party rammed through an extension of the refueling operation, a strong-arm tactic that risks alienating Japan’s pacifist public.
By Martin Fackler
International Herald Tribune
Japan’s Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba (bottom-C) reviews an honor guard before the departure of its destroyer Murasame at Yokosuka Naval Base, suburban Tokyo in January 2008. The United States welcomed the Japanese parliament’s approval Friday of a one-year extension to a naval mission backing US-led operations in Afghanistan.(AFP/File/Toru Yamanaka)
Aso had sought quick passage so he could turn his attention to the global financial crisis, amid rising calls at home and abroad for Tokyo to take more action to stimulate its recession-bound economy. Hours after the refueling extension passed, he appeared on national television to announce billions of dollars in new spending and loans to create jobs and help cash-strapped companies.
Aso is struggling to overcome growing doubts about his leadership, which have driven his public approval rating down near 20 percent as his party faces crucial national elections later this year.
The refueling law passed Friday allows a Japanese Navy tanker and escorting destroyer to continue operating for another year in waters off Pakistan, where they provide fuel and water for American and other warships supporting operations in Afghanistan. While the mission has limited military value, it carries political significance as a test of Japan’s alliance with its biggest ally, the United States.
Read the rest:
File photo shows the Japanese naval ship Tokiwa, which had been involved in supporting the US-led “war on terror” in the Indian Ocean, arrives in Tokyo Port. Japan’s parliament Friday extended a naval mission backing US-led operations in Afghanistan by another year, relieving one headache for beleaguered conservative Prime Minister Taro Aso.(AFP/File/Toru Yamanaka)