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Japan warship leaves port to resume anti-terror mission in Indian Ocean
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    YOKOSUKA, Japan — A Japanese navy destroyer departed Thursday to resume the country’s anti-terror mission in the Indian Ocean after a divisive battle in parliament caused a three-month suspension.
    The destroyer Murasame left this port south of Tokyo, to be joined later by a tanker. The ships’ refueling mission, in support of U.S.-led forces patrolling the Indian Ocean, was to begin in two to three weeks.
    ‘‘Japan will fulfill its global responsibilities,’’ Defense Ministers Shigeru Ishiba said at a send-off ceremony attended by about 200 people. ‘‘This mission is highly appreciated abroad. It is a very important mission.’’
    Japan had refueled ships since 2001 in support of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, but was forced to abandon the mission last fall when the resurgent opposition blocked an extension.
    A law rammed through parliament by the ruling party earlier this month will limit Japanese ships to refueling boats not directly involved in hostilities in Afghanistan, a restriction aimed at winning over a public wary of violating the spirit of the post-World War II pacifist constitution.
    The United States had lobbied hard for the mission, and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda had been deeply embarrassed by having to withdraw the mission in November, a step that cast doubt on how far Tokyo can back Washington in its global war on terrorist groups.
    Fukuda and other ruling party lawmakers argued the mission was needed to fulfill Japan’s obligations in the global war against terrorism and give the country a world role commensurate with its economic clout.
    Japan’s naval mission in the region the past six years provided logistical support to forces involved in the war in Afghanistan. It mainly supplied fuel to coalition warships, including from the U.S., Britain and Pakistan, according to the Japanese government.
    Public opinion polls show Japanese are gradually coming to accept a greater role for their troops abroad — as long as it does not involve combat.
    The Democratic Party of Japan, the party that took control of the upper chamber in elections last year, opposes the mission because it says military operations in Afghanistan do not have the explicit support from the United Nations.
    The party also says the mission violates Japan’s pacifist constitution.
    On Thursday, a small group of protesters stood outside the base’s gate waving banners and shouting slogans opposing the mission, but there were no incidents or arrests.

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