Japan’s Defense Ministry ordered home its naval ships from the Indian Ocean today, ending for now a six-year mission in support of the war in Afghanistan that raised the nation’s military presence overseas but has recently drawn increasing criticism domestically.
A destroyer and supply ship that had been refueling warships for the United States and other nations were recalled at 3 p.m. as a special law authorizing the mission was due to expire at midnight. The government of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda was unable to renew the law immediately because of opposition from the Democratic Party, which seized control of Parliament’s upper house in a landslide election victory during the summer.
The United States had urged Japan to extend the refueling mission which, while largely symbolic, provided important diplomatic support for Washington. The mission — based on a “special antiterrorism law” — constituted pacifist Japan’s main contribution to the Bush administration’s global campaign against terrorism.