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US rejects Japan request over fuel use in 'war on terror'
Yahoo News/AFP
January 20, 2008

TOKYO (AFP) - The United States has rejected a request by Japan that it verify Tokyo's contribution to the US-led "war on terror" in Afghanistan is not used for military operations in Iraq, a report said Sunday.

Japan on Thursday ordered two naval ships back to the Indian Ocean after parliament forced through the resumption of the mission to provide fuel and other support to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.

Ahead of the resumption, scheduled for mid-February, Japan and the United States are making arrangements to exchange documents on details of support later this month, according to Kyodo News service.

But Washington disagreed with Japan's plan to include provisions that would enable Tokyo to verify what the fuel was being used for, Kyodo reported, quoting unnamed sources close to Japan-US relations.

US officials said such provisions would affect its military operations in the region and be a burden on the troops engaged in them, the sources said.

They also argued that it was impossible to strictly match the amount of fuel provided with the amount consumed for certain purposes as the vessels' fuel tanks were never empty, Kyodo reported.

The US even warned that it would have to consider not accepting the fuel if Japan did not give up on the provisions.

The naval mission was suspended in November after Japan's opposition won the upper house of parliament and vowed that the officially pacifist nation should not take part in "American wars".

With the opposition refusing to back legislation to restart the mission, the government took the rare step of using its overwhelming majority in the lower house to override the decision.

The legislation limits Tokyo's activities to support for operations combating terrorism in Afghanistan, but there was speculation that the Japanese fuel was also used in Iraq.

Opposition parties have argued that if the document does not contain a provision allowing Japan to confirm how the fuel is used, it will be unable to effectively restrict the use of the fuel.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has argued that Tokyo needs to show it is contributing to global security and that the mission would help ensure the safe supply of oil.

Japan, the world's second largest economy, has virtually no natural energy resources and imports almost all of its oil from the Middle East.

Original Text