Antiterror bill endorsed but future unclear

by Jun Hongo

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and his Cabinet on Friday endorsed an extension of the special law on antiterrorism to keep the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean going.

However, the bill must be endorsed again by the new prime minister, who is expected to be chosen Monday in the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, and be submitted to the extraordinary Diet session that begins Wednesday.

Deliberations on the bill will likely be delayed because the new prime minister is expected to quickly dissolve the Lower House and call a snap election.

“The international community will not accept Japan withdrawing from the mission,” Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura told reporters at a news conference, pledging to continue to promote the bill’s importance even after his stint as defense minister ends next week.

Although responsibility for passing the bill will sit with the next prime minister, Fukuda and his Cabinet members chose to endorse the extension to emphasize its importance.

The original special law, which provided fuel to ships from 11 countries, was enacted in 2001. It expired last November after 794 refueling operations had been carried out, as allegations arose that some of the fuel provided by Japan may have been diverted to U.S. ships for use in the Iraq war.

After the Defense Ministry concluded none of the fuel had been used in Iraq, a new special antiterrorism law was rammed through the Diet by the LDP and New Komeito.