Japan considering sending warships

Monitoring Report TOKYO: On the quick heels of adopting new legislation to pave the way for it, Japan says it is considering to send warships as logistical support for the US-led military action in Afghanistan.

If warships are sent, it will be the first time since World War II that Japanese troops will leave Japanese territory A Japanese official said Thursday Japan was considering whether to send a fleet of military vessels including one of Japan’s four 7,250-ton Aegis destroyers to the Indian Ocean by the end of November, although no requests have been made from the US The decision comes as Japan and the US began talks in Tokyo to discuss plans concerning the non-combative role of elements of Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

Reports say the two sides have also agreed to set up a “coordination committee” to discuss specifics that could be incorporated into a “basic programme” to send Japanese troops as well as military warships and aircraft overseas.

Foreign affairs and defense officials are also expected to discuss regional security matters and other bilateral arrangements during their two days of meetings, Kyodo news agency reported.

Tokyo is said to be trying to get cabinet approval for the plan before November 13, several days prior to the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Japan on Monday passed legislation allowing the country’s armed forces to take part in limited operations assisting the US-led war on terror.

The legislation allows Japanese troops to take part in limited overseas operations but not actual combat.

It is believed that there will be two deployments of Japanese vessels to the Indian Ocean beginning as early as mid-November involving around 1,000 personnel.

The first fleet will be deployed in information and intelligence-gathering roles, the Asahi newspaper reported on its Web site, involving a helicopter-capable destroyer.

The second deployment would consist mainly of transport and supply ships to replenish US and Japanese navy vessels, the Asahi report said citing government officials.

There was expectation that Japan would send a more sophisticated Aegis class destroyer.

Defence Agency chief Gen Nakatani has suggested that Japan should dispatch the Aegis destroyer to gather information on the “war on terrorism,” Reuters added.

Previous laws, under the country’s post-World War II constitution, had barred Japan from taking part in any overseas military operation unless it was threatened or attacked directly.