• Kyodo

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Japan is not planning to expand the Self-Defense Forces’ refueling operations for the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan when it extends its logistic support plan by another six months in mid-November, Japanese sources said Friday.

Japan will carry out a one-time airlift operation under the extended support plan, transporting Thai troops to a country near Afghanistan, but it will withdraw the proposal of dispatching P-3C patrol aircraft equipped with advanced radar, the sources said.

Under the special law on antiterrorism measures, introduced in October last year, Japan compiled a six-month basic plan for measures to provide logistic support to the U.S.-led campaign.

Japan extended the plan by six months in May and plans to extend it again, by another six months, when it expires Nov. 19.

Under the current support plan, SDF ships supply U.S. and British vessels in the Arabian Sea with oil.

According to the sources, the United States had hoped that Japan would expand the refueling operation to include an area off Somalia and also provide oil to vessels from other countries engaged in maritime patrols.

The U.S. also wanted Japan to send P-3C aircraft to detect ships that may be used to help al-Qaeda members escape and to transport materials for weapons of mass destruction.

Japan, with a possible U.S. attack on Iraq in mind, has also considered the possibility of expanding its support measures, the sources said.

But it is difficult for the Japanese government to dispatch P-3C aircraft or a destroyer equipped with the Aegis air defense system because it would provoke criticism that Japan is abandoning its policy of not exercising its right to collective self-defense, or the right to help allies under attack from foreign elements, they said.

The sources said it would be possible to expand the SDF refueling operation to include vessels from Germany, France and Canada under the current framework of the basic support plan.

The Japanese government, however, decided to shelve the idea as the maritime patrol operations by those countries target not only al-Qaeda but also other terrorist groups, the sources said.

The antiterrorism law limits Japan’s support to cases related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

The sources said the Japanese government will reconsider the possibility of dispatching an Aegis destroyer and P-3C aircraft if the U.S. launches an attack on Iraq.

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