MSDF may have violated refueling rules during Iraq war

Kyodo

The Maritime Self-Defense Force indirectly fueled the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Iraq war, a high-ranking U.S. officer said Tuesday after the vessel returned here to its forward-deployed port.

Rear Adm. Matthew Moffit, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Group 5, said the task force centered on the 83,960-ton Kitty Hawk received 3,000 kiloliters of fuel during its mission to the Persian Gulf during the war.

If that is the case, the MSDF may have violated a law limiting refueling activities to vessels involved in the war against terrorism.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a regular afternoon news conference that the government would investigate whether the indirect fueling activities had indeed taken place, stating that there was a “strict promise with Japan” that naturally should have been kept.

A senior Defense Agency official said, however, “Refueling operations are based on the antiterrorism law. We never provided fuel to ships participating in the war in Iraq.”

The antiterrorism law was enacted in October 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States that year. It authorizes the dispatch of MSDF vessels to the Arabian Sea to fuel ships from the U.S. and its allies during antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.

MSDF vessels have since supplied ships from the U.S. and nine other countries with 300,000 kiloliters of fuel — worth 11.1 billion yen — on 213 occasions, Japanese officials said last week.

Japan banned itself from providing fuel to aid the U.S.-led war in Iraq to avoid directly assisting in that conflict. But officials expressed concern the fuel might end up going to vessels involved in operations as part of the Iraq war.

The Kitty Hawk, which left Yokosuka on Jan. 23, will undergo regular repairs at the base, a U.S. military source said.

The 91,487-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will call at the base for several days starting Saturday to replenish supplies.