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Japan has not decided whether to send one of its high-tech destroyers to the Arabian Sea to help the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, the government’s top spokesman said Wednesday.

“No decision has been made yet,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told reporters, referring to the possible dispatch of a so-called Aegis destroyer. Aegis destroyers are equipped with an advanced intelligence-gathering system.

Fukuda was commenting on remarks made Tuesday to the House of Representatives Committee on Security by Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba, who said he wanted to see one of the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis ships sent to the Arabian Sea.

Fukuda termed Ishiba’s remarks an expression of his personal wishes.

“We’re in the middle of studying what arrangements to make (on the issue). We are not yet at the stage where we can name the specific type of ship to send,” Fukuda said.

Fukuda’s phrasing reflected concern that deploying one of the destroyers will make neighboring states anxious about an expansion of Japanese naval power, despite its war-renouncing Constitution.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters, “The government and (the ruling) parties will later study” how to continue supporting the U.S. after the ongoing project for the purpose expires on Nov. 19.

Japan has sent five MSDF vessels to the Arabian Sea for rear-echelon support — including refueling at sea — until Nov. 19. The government is set to extend the project beyond that date.

Japan began the project under an antiterrorism law enacted in October last year.

Ishiba, a Diet member, told the committee, “An Aegis destroyer boasts superb intelligence-gathering abilities. It will sharply reduce the burden on the crew and play a proper role in providing rear support meant for eradicating terrorism.”

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