Japan denies refueling violated its own policy
May 9, 2003
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Japan’s Self-Defense Agency is denying a report that refueling U.S. ships involved in the war on Iraq may have violated Japan’s self-imposed restrictions on any but defensive military actions.
The denial is in response to a report by a senior U.S. Navy official that Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels provided 800,000 gallons of fuel to U.S. warships assigned to the Kitty Hawk Battle Group during the war.
Japanese navy refuelers were sent to the Arabian Sea in October 2001. They were to supply ships from 10 nations, including the United States, involved in U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan. They’ve since supplied 80 million gallons of fuel in 213 refuelings, Japanese officials said.
However, Japan backed away from direct involvement in the war in Iraq, restricting itself to providing fuel to ships taking part in that conflict.
Japan Self-Defense Agency officials Wednesday denied the Japanese news reports, emphasizing that all refueling operations at sea were being carried out in line with antiterrorism measures passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
A Defense Agency spokesman said the MSDF support fleet did not enter the Persian Gulf; rather, Japanese vessels stayed in the northern Arabian Sea and refueled U.S. and British ships identified as being involved in the antiterrorism operations.
In a related development, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partners agreed Tuesday to extend the deployment of MSDF ships to the Arabian Sea region for another six months, to support antiterrorism operations. The ships’ current assignment was to end May 19.
The LDP and its partners, the New Komeito and the Conservative Party, also are considering sending Self-Defense Forces to Iraq to help in postwar rebuilding efforts.
— Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.