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Okinawa groups oppose decision to reinstate fueling mission

Date Posted: 2008-01-17

Maritime Self Defense Force ships are sailing toward the Indian Ocean to resume a refueling mission halted last November, but many are not pleased by the government decision.

The Okinawa Prefecture Citizens’ Group and the local labor union groups are opposed to the resumption, and say “It means the same as going to war,” and argue it is in violation of Japan’s constitution. The Japanese Diet rejected normal rules last week and pushed through a bill in the House of Councilors, overriding the earlier decision of the House of Representatives, and approved resumption in the fueling mission. The Diet was concerned about Japan’s role in combating terrorism, and had been under pressure from the U.S. and other nations to do more in the international arena.

Peace groups argue the fueling mission, with Japanese ships providing fuel to American and allied vessels engaged in anti-terrorism activities in the west Asia region, “is killing the Iraqi and Afghanistani people.” A Peace Group Committee member says “we can’t forgive the constitution violations by the Japanese government as it goes and refuels the American ships.”

Opponents insist “everybody can see the people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying by the war.” Japanese Self Defense Force officials counter that “what we can do is provide fuels to contribute to the world mission against terrorists.” One official adds “We have to work together with other countries. We are supporting not only America, but in a global way, every country.”

The Ministry of Self Defense has reportedly been worried about criticism from other countries that Japan had abandoned the fight against terrorists. A ministry spokesman says “we cannot survive without supporting other countries. Japan has no funds at all, so how can Japan live without being involved internationally?” He says the ministry has reflected about the arguments against the fueling mission.

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