Refueling bill rejected by Japan's upper house panel

Updated: 2008-01-10 21:35

TOKYO -- Japan's House of Councilors foreign affairs and defense committee turned down Thursday afternoon a pending antiterrorism bill which is aimed at resuming Japan's controversial refueling mission in the Indian Ocean to support the US-led military operations in and around Afghanistan.

The bill was voted down at a hearing session by a majority vote as the opposition bloc, led by the major Democratic Party of Japan, controls the upper house.

However, under Japan's special parliamentary rule, being rejected by the upper house doesn't necessarily mean the abortion of a bill.

At the upper house's plenary session scheduled for Friday morning, the bill is set to be voted down by the opposition bloc. The more powerful House of Representatives, or lower house, will convene a plenary session in the afternoon to hold its second vote.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its minor coalition partner the New Komeito party's holding of the two-thirds majority in the lower house guarantees that the upper house's decision will be overruled and the bill will be enacted into law.

The lower house first passed the bill on November 13. The chamber hasn't used its power to overthrow the upper house's rejection since 1951.

Japan withdrew the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) from its refueling mission on November 1 as the previous special antiterrorism measures law expires.

The new special antiterrorism measures bill aimed at resuming the mission has been the focus on Japan's political stage in the past several months. With its enactment on Friday, the MSDF is expected to restart their suspended mission within this month, sources said.

The Japanese parliament passed the original special antiterrorism measures law in October 2001, one month after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Japanese government's subsequent dispatch of the MSDF into overseas mission under the law was the first of its kind after WWII, marking a milestone-like transition in Japan's defense policy. The law was extended for two years in 2003 and was extended for one year in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

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