• Kyodo

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The United States government hopes that Japan will continue to transport fuel and supply U.S. forces in the Middle East in the event of an attack on Iraq, U.S. government officials said Friday.

Washington hopes Japan’s support framework will be maintained at its present level, according to the officials. Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels have been providing oil for the U.S-led military efforts in Afghanistan.

During a visit to Japan last month, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is said to have told Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani he was not assuming there would be new types of military support from Japan.

He said he understands the country’s restrictions on military participation, U.S. government sources said.

Armitage had avoided directly mentioning the fuel issue in talks with Nakatani and others in Tokyo because he wanted to avoid criticism that the U.S. was pressuring Japan. In addition, the U.S. administration had yet to decide on a military attack, the sources said.

Whether Japan should continue to supply fuel in the Arabian Sea should the U.S. attack Iraq is expected to become a major issue for the Japanese government, as well as in U.S.-Japan relations.

Japan is bound by its war-renouncing Constitution. It enacted an antiterrorism special measures law, however, on Oct. 29 last year, which allowed its Self-Defense Forces to be dispatched overseas for the first time since World War II. The SDF has provided noncombatant support for the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

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