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Japan Extends MSDF Mission in Indian Ocean
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The Japanese government decided on Tuesday morning to further extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)'s mission in the Indian Ocean to refuel US-led coalition forces by another six months to Nov. 1.

The decision of the six-month extension, the 11th of its kind, was made on a Cabinet meeting.

In October 2001, the Japanese parliament enacted the special anti-terrorism measures law, which sanctioned MSDF vessels to provide fuel and water to US fleet in support of the anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan.

The refueling mission was Japan's first overseas dispatch of forces into an ongoing war since the end of World War II.

In another development, Japanese defense ministry officials Monday announced the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF)'s fighter jets and the Japan-based US Air Force's F-22A stealth fighters will participate in a joint exercise in airspace around Okinawa on Thursday and Friday.

The drill, which will be the first between Japan and the United States involving the state-of-art F-22A, is aimed at learning the capabilities of the F-22A, testing the ASDF's latest tactics, and improving the interoperability of the ASDF and the US Air Force, officials said.

Ten to 18 fighter jets will take part in the drill.

The US forces deployed 12 F-22A fighters at its Kadena Air Base in southern Japan's Okinawa prefecture since Feb. 17. The deployment, which is expected to continue through May, was the new type of jets' first trip outside the United States.

(Xinhua News Agency April 24, 2007)

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