Japan's government pledged an investigation yesterday into allegations that defense officials knowingly under-reported the amount of fuel Japan's navy supplied to a US-led coalition ship in the Indian Ocean.
The allegations, which concern the refueling of a single warship in February 2003, were trumpeted by the opposition and could further complicate the government's efforts to win parliamentary passage of an extension of the refueling mission.
Japan's navy has been providing fuel for warships supporting US-led forces in Afghanistan since 2001. The mission expires on Nov. 1, and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has strongly pushed for an extension.
The government acknowledged earlier this month that it had mistakenly reported providing 750,000 liters of fuel to a US warship when it had provided 3 million liters.
Major newspapers reported yesterday that defense officials knew about the misreporting back in 2003, but did not disclose it, keeping it from Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.
Nobutaka Machimura, chief cabinet secretary, said the government would conduct a full probe.
"For the people responsible to have been aware of the facts but not report them properly is extremely regrettable. We don't know what their intention for doing so was, so we'd like to have it investigated thoroughly," he said.
Machimura said that the Defense Ministry was expected to deal strictly with the personnel involved.
Fukuda's government has come under increasing pressure from the US to extend the mission. The government has proposed a more limited version of the mission in hopes of winning cooperation from the opposition, which controls the upper house of the Diet, or parliament.
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