Japan extends military mission in Indian Ocean to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Japan is plans to extend its dispatch of warships in the Indian Ocean to provide support for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, officials said Thursday.

Japan's navy has provided fuel for coalition warships in the region since November 2001 under a special law that was last extended in 2003 but expires on Nov. 1. The mission is part of Japan's contribution to the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to submit bills for the mission's extension for approval during a special session of Parliament to be called later this month, according to a LDP official who declined to be named in line with party policy.

Japanese Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono said earlier this month that Japan was considering pulling out its warships from the Indian Ocean amid criticism that Japan is running a "free gasoline station." He also said Parliament should discuss the matter as soon as possible after the country's Sept. 11 nationwide elections.

Yu Kameoka, a spokesman for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, said a final decision on the dispatch would not be made until Koizumi returns from a trip to New York.

Koizumi departed for New York on Thursday to attend a special world leaders' summit at the United Nations, and was to return to Tokyo late Saturday, reports the AP.

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