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Japan may share U.S. resupply mission
Japan and the United States are studying a plan to share with Britain the task of supplying and transporting fuel and materials for U.S. military forces operating in the Indian Ocean, government sources said. The plan increases the likelihood that the two Maritime Self-Defense Force supply ships Japan plans to deploy will play an important role in the U.S. line of communication rather than purely on a request basis from the U.S., the sources said Friday.
A senior Defense Agency official insisted that the Japanese fleet not be programmed into the U.S. line of communication for its military actions.
According to sources familiar with the plan, the supply vessels Hamana and Towada, both with a standard weight of 8,150 tons, may be asked to share the supply and transport missions.
The Hamana left Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, on Friday morning together with two destroyers, the 5,200-ton Kurama and the 4,550-ton Kirisame, for a two-month intelligence-gathering mission in the Indian Ocean as part of Japan's provision of noncombat support to the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan.
The three ships are expected to arrive in the Indian Ocean in two weeks.
Japan plans to send the Towada and the main SDF task force to the region, probably later this month.
The three-nation plan under consideration calls for the two Japanese supply ships to join a group of American and British fast combat support ships to rotate their supply operations.
Despite the Japanese ships' smaller sizes in relation to their U.S. and British counterparts, a senior MSDF official forecast that resupply needs would increase as the war continues.
The Japan Times: Nov. 11, 2001
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), November 10, 2001