Japan’s lower house of parliament approved a bill today to extend its naval refueling mission to landlocked Afghanistan. The bill will allow Japanese ships to continue refueling warships in the Indian Ocean past January 15. The bill is expected to be reject by Japan’s opposition-controlled upper house before being overridden by the more powerful lower house.
The United States has regularly pressured Japan to continue providing support for its seven year long war in Afghanistan. Last year they cautioned that they would be “very, very concerned” if Japan declined to continue its mission. The mission is highly controversial given Japan’s pacifist constitution, and has long faced vigorous opposition from the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, who succeeded in forcing a temporary halt to the Afghan mission late last year, shortly after the US warning.
Reversing their position, the opposition promised not to stand in the way of the vote earlier this month, in an effort to pressure Prime Minister Taro Aso to call early elections. The Prime Minister has cited his desire to extend the mission, in addition to the worldwide economic crisis, as reasons to stall on calling the next election.