Japan considering sending warships
TOKYO, Japan -- Japan is considering sending warships as logistical support for the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan, a Japanese official said Thursday.
Japanese officials have said Tokyo was considering whether to send a fleet of military vessels including one of Japan's four 7,250-ton Aegis destroyers to the Indian Ocean by the end of November, although no requests have been made from the U.S.
The decision comes as Japan and the U.S. began talks in Tokyo to discuss plans concerning the non-combative role of elements of Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF).
The two sides have also agreed to set up a "coordination committee" to discuss specifics that could be incorporated into a "basic programme" to send Japanese troops as well as military warships and aircraft overseas, a Japanese official told Reuters News Agency.
Foreign affairs and defense officials are also expected to discuss regional security matters and other bilateral arrangements during their two days of meetings, Kyodo news agency reported.
A Japanese government source told Reuters that Tokyo was trying to get cabinet approval for the plan before November 13, several days prior to the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Japan on Monday passed legislation allowing the country's armed forces to take part in limited operations assisting the U.S.-led war on terror.
The legislation allows Japanese troops to take part in limited overseas operations but not actual combat.
Newspaper reports said that there will be two deployments of Japanese vessels to the Indian Ocean beginning as early as mid-November involving around 1,000 personnel.
The first fleet will be deployed in information and intelligence-gathering roles, the Asahi newspaper reported on its Web site, involving a helicopter-capable destroyer.
The second deployment would consist mainly of transport and supply ships to replenish U.S. and Japanese navy vessels, the Asahi report said citing government officials.
There was expectation that Japan would send a more sophisticated Aegis class destroyer.
Defence Agency chief Gen Nakatani has suggested that Japan should dispatch the Aegis destroyer to gather information on the "war on terrorism," Reuters added.
But opposition lawmakers are cautious about deploying the ships overseas, saying an expanded role for the sophisticated warships could breach the pacifist constitution.
If warships are sent it will be the first time since World War II that Japanese military forces were allowed outside Japanese territory.
Previous laws, under the country's post-World War II constitution, had barred Japan from taking part in any overseas military operation unless it was threatened or attacked directly.
Successive Japanese governments have interpreted the constitution, drawn up after the Japanese defeat in 1945, as banning collective self-defense or aiding allies in military endeavors.
Opposition parties had argued that providing even non-combatant manpower violates the constitutional bar on using military force to solve international disputes.
Japan military support bill approved
October 29, 2001
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