TOKYO — A Japanese Defense Agency official Thursday denied local news reports that Japan refueled U.S. ships that participated in the campaign against Iraq.

The flap began earlier this month when U.S. Rear Adm. Matthew Moffit, commander of Carrier Group Five, said that a Japanese tanker may have pumped fuel into a U.S. tanker that refueled the USS Kitty Hawk while it was passing through the Indian Ocean on its way to wage war against Iraq.

Japan’s anti-terrorism special measures law allows Maritime Self Defense Force tankers to refuel warships involved in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, the Defense Agency spokesman said, but not Iraq.

Defense officials said there is no way to track where fuel supplied by the Japanese refuelers goes once it is transferred to U.S. ships.

But, he said, “there should not be any ships refueled that engaged only in the Iraqi war.”

U.S. military officials were unable for comment Friday afternoon. Previously, they had no comment on the refueling controversey.

MSDF officials said earlier the Kitty Hawk Battle Group may have received the fuel because it was involved in the anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan on its way to Iraq.

The special measures anti-terrorism law was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States as part of Japan’s support for the war on terror. It allowed MSDF ships to act in a support role for U.S. and British warships involved in the campaign against terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

In the meantime, Tokyo decided to extend refueling operations in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea for six months. The extension allows for MSDF ships to refuel ships involved in anti-terrorism operations until the special measures law expires Nov. 1.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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