Japanese warships set to sail

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Japanese warships set to sail TOKYO, Japan (CNN) --Three Japanese warships will depart for the Indian Ocean early Friday to provide non-combat support to the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

The ships will leave from the southern port of Sasebo around 7:00 a.m. (2200 GMT Thursday), marking the first time since World War II that Japanese forces will operate outside of Japanese territory.

It will take two weeks before the deployment -- two destroyers and a supply ship -- will reach the Indian Ocean.

There, the ships will gather intelligence for the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, a spokesman for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said.

The ships will also determine the nature of a second naval deployment, the spokesman said, expected mid-November.

It was reported that Japan was considering dispatching a high-tech Aegis destroyer but opted against it, fearing such a move would weaken Japan's own territorial self-defense capabilities.

Last month the Japanese parliament passed new legislation to allow the country's Self-Defense Force to operate in non-combat roles, including intelligence gathering and the transport of supplies, to assist the anti-terror coalition.

Friday's deployment gained final authorization after Japan's cabinet voted on the matter Thursday.

Koizumi support Prime Minister Koizumi has given his full support to the U.S. actions in its war against terrorism and promised Japan's full cooperation in response to the September 11 attacks.

Japan's leader though is under pressure to strike a balance between military support to the anti-terror campaign and fears among regional neighbors of a revival in Japanese militarism.

Asian countries still harbor bitter memories of atrocities committed by Japanese troops throughout the region in the first half of the last century.

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.

Successive Japanese governments have interpreted the constitution, drawn up after the Japanese defeat in 1945, as banning collective self-defense or aiding allies in military endeavors.

Opposition parties have argued that providing even non-combatant manpower violates the constitutional bar on using military force to solve international disputes.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), November 08, 2001

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