Thursday, November 22, 2007
The first of two Japanese navy ships returned home Thursday from the Indian Ocean after the country's mission in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan was scuttled by opposition in parliament earlier this month. Japanese warships had been refueling vessels from countries fighting in the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan since 2001. The mission was abruptly halted on Nov. 1, when opposition parties raised concerns it was too broad and possibly violated the constitution. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has vowed to resume the mission soon. The U.S. has also been pushing for a resumption. The two ships in the region, a destroyer and a refueler, came back to Japan following an order from Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba. On Thursday, the destroyer, Kirisame, and its crew members of about 200 returned to the Sasebo port in southwestern Japan to a crowd of welcoming family and military members, according to Yoichi Kubo, spokesman for Sasebo base. The refueler, Tokiwa, will arrive on Friday at a Tokyo port where the ministry will hold a ceremony, to be attended by Ishiba.
JDS Kirisame (DD 104)"Unfortunately, we have to come to a point where we have to welcome them home, but they were engaged in work for a long time in a difficult environment," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura. Last week, Japan's lower house of parliament approved a resumption of a watered-down mission in the Indian Ocean. The legislation is now in the opposition-controlled upper house. It limits Japanese ships to refueling and supplying water to craft used in monitoring and inspecting vessels suspected of links to terrorism or arms smuggling.During its six-year mission, Japan provided about 490,000 kiloliters of fuel in the Indian Ocean to coalition warships, including those from the U.S., Britain and Pakistan, according to the Defense Ministry.