Under new security laws that took effect last year, the Maritime Self-Defense Force has refueled U.S. ships patrolling to counter North Korean missile launches, a Japanese government source said Thursday.

The refueling missions to U.S. Aegis ships sailing in the Sea of Japan have been conducted since April, and this is the second instance in which the Self-Defense Forces were known to have performed their expanded roles under the security legislation.

The legislation has loosened the constraints of Japan's war-renouncing postwar Constitution imposed on the activities of the defense forces, setting the stage for U.S. and Japanese troops to work more closely than ever.