( Gulfnews ) - Tokyo: Japan could scale back its support of the US in Afghanistan by ending naval assistance to vessels involved in ground missions there under a ruling party proposal that officials predicted Sunday would gain parliamentary approval.
Since 2001, Japan's navy has been providing fuel for coalition warships under an anti-terrorism law that has been extended three times. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has strongly pushed for another extension to the mission, which expires on Nov. 1.
However, Fukuda has been forced to make concessions because of strong resistance from the opposition bloc, which controls one of parliament's two chambers.
A new draft law, submitted to the opposition on Friday, would clearly limit the mission to naval refueling and supplying of water to vessels participating in the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom's maritime patrol missions in the Indian Ocean.
"Under the new law, there will be no refueling to ships providing support for ground operations (in Afghanistan)," Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Sunday on a public broadcaster NHK talk show.
"The Indian Ocean is an important passageway for much of the world's oil, and tankers passing through could fall victim to terrorism," Komura said. "Providing security there is valued highly by the international community, and we will continue to provide logistical support."
According to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Web site, the new draft law would also rule out search and rescue missions, as well as humanitarian relief efforts.
It was not immediately clear how seriously US ground operations in Afghanistan would be affected under the draft law, the details of which have not been made public.