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NEW LAW EYED TO COUNTER OPPOSITION

MSDF Indian Ocean exit not an option: Komura

by Reiji Yoshida

The government will do whatever it takes to ensure that Maritime Self-Defense Force warships continue their mission in the Indian Ocean in support of the NATO-led antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan, new Defense Minister Masahiko Komura said.

Drawing up a new dispatch law for Diet submission is among options the government may take if the opposition camp moves to block the extension of the current antiterrorism law, which expires Nov. 1, according to Komura, a former foreign minister who was appointed to his current post in the Aug. 27 Cabinet reshuffle.

MSDF vessels have been supplying water and fuel to ships belonging to the multinational force engaged in Afghanistan, including the United States, Germany, France, Canada and Pakistan.

But the opposition parties, which won an Upper House majority in the July 29 election, oppose extending the MSDF dispatch law.

“(Maintaining the mission) would meet the demand of the international community and serve Japan’s national interests as well,” the veteran lawmaker said in an interview. “We’d like to continue this at all costs.”

However, Komura would not elaborate on the new law he is considering.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, has floated a new law to allow Japan to only provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.

Komura, however, rejected this idea, saying the core mission must be the MSDF logistic support duty.

Without such support, Pakistan would find it difficult to continue participating in the antiterrorist operations in Afghanistan, he argued.

“Japan’s activity is now providing a base for a maritime interception operation” that blocks narcotics and weapons traffic by terrorists, Komura said. “(Withdrawal) would not isolate Japan immediately, but it would seriously damage our national interests.”

Asked about the Defense Ministry’s plan to procure a next-generation fighter, Komura said Tokyo needs more information on advanced aircraft, including the U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.

“Asia-Pacific countries as well as neighboring countries (of Japan) have all improved the capabilities of their fighters. Japan, too, needs fighters capable of defending its skies,” Komura said.

The U.S. Congress has ruled out exporting the F-22, given its state-of-the-art technology and the possible effect this could have on the global military power balance. Komura stressed, however, that Japan will keep doing “its best” to learn more about the jet.