Bush hopes Japan will maintain Afghan mission


TOKYO (AP)

U.S. President George W. Bush praised Japan’s contributions to global anti-terror efforts and said he hoped Tokyo’s military mission in support of troops in Afghanistan will continue, news reports said Friday.

Bush told Asian media organizations in a round-table interview held before next week’s Asia-Pacific leaders meeting in Sydney that his talks planned for September with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will “center on the war on terror,” according to Kyodo News agency.

“Japan has been a positive contributor to dealing with the extremists in this ideological war,” Kyodo quoted Bush as saying. “I hope that they will continue to maintain their positive influence.”

“The Japanese presence helps achieve peace, and that’s what we want,” Bush said in a separate interview with public broadcaster NHK.

Japan’s navy has provided fuel and other logistical support for coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since November 2001 under a special anti-terrorism law, which has been extended three times and is set to expire in November.

However, the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which wrested control of parliament’s upper house from the ruling camp in July 29 elections, has lined up against extending the law.

The DPJ’s leader Ichiro Ozawa has argued the mission violates Japan’s pacifist constitution, which prohibits the use of force in settling international disputes. Ozawa has also said Tokyo should only participate in U.N.-led peacekeeping missions.

Abe has said he will make every effort to gain the Democrats’ support in extending the mission. It is widely expected his pro-U.S. party will have to make concessions to the DPJ over the issue, even though his ruling bloc dominates parliament’s more powerful lower house.