October 30, 2007 / 9:07 PM / 10 years ago

Pentagon plays down end of Japan's Afghan mission

<p>Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda arrives for a meeting with opposition Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa at Parliament's Lower House in Tokyo October 30, 2007. Fukuda and Ozawa discussed the new bill for providing refuelling in support of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.Katsumi Kasahara/Pool</p>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Japan's failure to extend a naval mission in support of the Afghanistan war will not affect U.S. operations in that combat zone, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

"I do not expect any operational impact whatsoever," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

Japan's prime minister failed on Tuesday to forge agreement with the opposition to allow Japan's navy to keep providing fuel for U.S. and other ships patrolling the Indian Ocean. Those operations support the war in Afghanistan. This means the mission is now certain to be halted for months, if not longer.

A Japanese supply ship carried out its last refueling operation on Monday under the current law, which expires November 1.

"We still hope that they will continue to support the mission through their refueling efforts," Morrell told reporters.

"But if they ultimately choose not to, we will certainly come up with alternative means of making sure that our men and women have the fuel they need to go about their missions."

The fuel provided by Japan's supply mission accounted for about 19.6 percent of total fuel consumed by coalition vessels from December 2001 through February 2003, according to Pentagon data. Since then, it has accounted for about 7.3 percent of fuel consumed by coalition vessels.

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