JAPAN

Tokyo to end Afghan refuelling mission, media reports say

Japan has announced that it will halt its refuelling missions supporting US forces in Afghanistan, the Kyodo news agency reported Thursday. The statement comes days before US Defense Secretary Robert Gates travels to Japan for talks.

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Japan's Parliamentary Defence Secretary Akihisa Nagashima said he told the United States that Tokyo will halt a refuelling mission backing US forces in Afghanistan, Kyodo news agency reported Thursday.

Kyodo quoted Nagashima, Japan’s third-ranking defence official, as saying that he had notified the White House and Defence Department that Japan would stop the naval mission in the Indian Ocean in January.

Japan's new centre-left government, which took power last month and has vowed "more equal" ties with the United States, has previously said it would end the mission, but Nagashima said he had made the announcement formal.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates travels to Japan next week to meet with the new government. Talks are expected to include not only Japan’s decision to halt its refuelling mission, but also the sensitive issue of US forces in Okinawa which Gates will discuss when he meets Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The US defense secretary's visit, the first by a US cabinet member since Japan’s September elections, will provide a chance to "get acquainted" with the new leadership, discuss security in the region and the "ongoing transformation of the alliance," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

 

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