• Kyodo


The United States wants Japan to again extend its refueling mission for U.S.-led coalition vessels in the Indian Ocean, senior lawmaker Taku Yamasaki said Tuesday.

Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security, made a request for the extension at a meeting with Yamasaki at the Pentagon, the former vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said afterward.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force mission is scheduled to expire in November. It has already been extended twice.

Yamasaki was limited in his response, saying he told Rodman it would require “a lot of political energy” to extend the special law that allows the refueling as a contribution to antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

The law expires Nov. 1 after being extended for a year last October and for two years in October 2003. It was enacted in October 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Against the backdrop of increasing attacks by the Taliban mainly in southern Afghanistan, Rodman explained that the surveillance activity in the Indian Ocean is in a critical stage, Yamasaki said.

Rodman also called for expanding transport operations carried out by the Air Self-Defense Force between Kuwait and Iraq, Yamasaki said.

Yamasaki said they discussed North Korea, with Rodman saying the firing July 5 of a Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile was a failure and that there are no indications at the moment North Korea is preparing to launch another one.

Later Tuesday, Yamasaki met Sen. John McCain and they agreed that Japan and the United States must work to bring North Korea back to the six-party talks and convince it to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Yamasaki said the influential Republican from Arizona told him the current standoff is unlikely to be resolved unless China uses its leverage on Pyongyang.

Yamasaki arrived Monday for a four-day visit.

LDP nationalism fear

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) Taku Yamasaki warned Tuesday against increasing nationalist voices within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the wake of North Korea’s missile launches, stressing the party could lose in the next election.

“If there is a movement within . . . my party, the Liberal Democratic Party, to pull the country into a warlike direction, Japan is a democracy and my party could be chased out of the government,” Yamasaki, a former LDP vice president, said at a forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

Yamasaki stressed the need to solve the North Korean issues with patience through diplomacy, and called on Washington to be receptive to holding bilateral talks with North Korea at a “separate table” within the six-party talks on defusing Pyongyang’s nuclear threat so the North will return to the negotiations.

The veteran politician, who was once a close ally to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, made the comments when asked to address concerns in South Korea that Japan is trying to use the missile launches as a momentum to remilitarize.

“There is absolutely no movement in that direction in Japan,” Yamasaki said, ruling out that Japan is building up its capability to attack foreign targets, because it is “difficult” to do so under the pacifist Constitution and because pre-emptive strikes are not allowed under the U.N. Charter.

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