• Kyodo

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The United States awarded the Legion of Merit with a degree of commander Friday to Adm. Takashi Saito of the Maritime Self-Defense Force for his contributions to strengthening the bilateral security alliance and defense cooperation.

U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Mullen presented the award to Saito at a ceremony at the Pentagon.

The award was given for Saito’s “exceptionally meritorious service” as the chief of the Maritime Staff of the MSDF from January 2005 through last July, according to the citation.

The citation mentioned, among other things, the MSDF’s ongoing mission in the Indian Ocean to refuel U.S.-led coalition vessels taking part in antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan, bilateral antisubmarine warfare drills and Japan’s fielding of a “credible” ballistic missile defense system.

Such efforts have enhanced the Japan-U.S. alliance as “a force to defend Japan and maintain peace and stability in the Far East region,” it said.

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