The House of Representatives passed a bill Friday to extend the 2001 antiterrorism law by another two years, paving the way for the law’s enactment on Oct. 10 and dissolution of the Lower House the same day.
The bill was passed with the support of the ruling coalition — the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and New Conservative Party — while all opposition parties voted against it.
It will go to the Upper House for deliberation next week before probably being passed on the morning of Oct. 10.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will then dissolve the Lower House in the afternoon, leading to a general election on Nov. 9, sources said.
Much of the four-day deliberation on the bill in the Lower House was ceremonial; the attention of lawmakers across party lines is focused on the upcoming election.
The two-year legislation, which expires Nov. 1, allows the Self-Defense Forces to provide logistic support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism in and around Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Under the law, three Maritime Self-Defense Force supply ships have provided a total of 320,000 kiloliters of fuel for warships of the U.S. and nine other countries operating in the Indian Ocean.
But the need for the refueling ships has been questioned.
Defense Agency reports show that the amount of refueling has fallen sharply to 32,000 kiloliters in the six months to Sept. 8 from 129,000 kiloliters in the first six months from December 2001.
U.S. warships operating in the area have decreased from an initial 40 to just two, prompting the DPJ to ask the government why it is necessary to extend the law by another two years.
“We cannot back down when some 70 countries around the world are cooperating with the antiterrorism campaign,” Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi responded during Diet deliberations.
“It’s important that we show our presence there,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said. “We have made certain achievements in the past two years, but it is still not the situation where we can withdraw.”
The DPJ also argued that SDF units should be dispatched after receiving Diet approval, rather than being sent first while approval is still pending. But the government rejected this idea because the SDF’s operations plan was approved by the Diet two years ago.
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