The government has submitted to the Diet a bill to continue the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan. This sets the stage for a confrontation between the ruling and opposition blocs. Deliberations are set to start this week.

Under current law, which expires Nov. 1, the MSDF supplied about 484,000 kiloliters of fuel oil to naval ships of 11 countries — including the United States, Britain and Pakistan — between September 2001 and the end of last August. The government says it is crucial that Japan remain in “the line of battle” against terrorism to maintain the alliance between Japan and the U.S. But suspicions have arisen that the U.S. might have used MSDF-supplied oil for war operations in Iraq, violating the principle of the antiterror special-measures law.

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