MSDF wraps up eight-year Indian Ocean mission

Kyodo News

The Maritime Self-Defense Force was ordered Friday to end its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, as a law authorizing it expires.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa issued the order that will terminate at midnight the MSDF operations that have continued for most of the period since December 2001.

As an alternative support measure, Japan has pledged to offer up to $5 billion in civilian aid to Afghanistan.

The 13,500-ton supply ship Mashu and 4,550-ton destroyer Ikazuchi will now exit the Indian Ocean.

Kitazawa told reporters Friday morning that he “respects” the MSDF efforts in the mission that has lasted about eight years, and he believes the “high level” of Japan’s refueling technique was demonstrated to the world through the operations.

The minister said, however, demand for such operations had been declining in recent years, and Japan will come up with fresh international contribution measures.

Japan has provided about 510,000 kiloliters of fuel to vessels from 12 countries, including the United States, France, Britain and Pakistan, in 938 missions as of Dec. 31, according to a Defense Ministry tally.

The cost of fuel provided to foreign vessels in the mission since fiscal 2001 has exceeded ¥24 billion. The MSDF is to conduct its last refueling mission Friday.