MSDF refuels U.S. ships on watch for N. Korea missiles

The Yomiuri ShimbunActing under the security-related laws, Maritime Self-Defense Force supply ships have refueled U.S. Aegis-equipped vessels watching for North Korea’s ballistic missile launches in the Sea of Japan, it has been learned.

The security-related laws enforced in March 2016 expanded the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ logistical support, enabling them to refuel U.S. vessels in times of peace based on the revised Japan-U.S. Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement that took effect in April. The latest refueling activities are aimed at strengthening the two countries’ capabilities to deal with repeated provocations by North Korea through bilateral cooperation.

On Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga revealed the MSDF had conducted refueling activities for U.S. vessels.

“I am aware the SDF has conducted such [refueling] activities” in accordance with the security-related laws, he said at a press conference.

Suga, however, did not elaborate. “I would refrain from disclosing an individual and specific situation in which the SDF supplied [fuel],” he said.

The MSDF has refueled U.S. vessels on multiple occasions since April at the United States’ request, according to sources. The United States asked the Japanese side not to disclose this support by the MSDF, saying it is information concerning a specific operation by the U.S. military, the sources added.

The security-related laws, including the revised Self-Defense Forces Law, made it possible for the SDF to refuel U.S. forces engaged not only in such operations as joint drills, which were allowed even under previous legislation, but also in other activities, including ballistic missile defense.

Following the extension of the scope of the SDF’s logistical support, the two governments signed the revised ACSA, which stipulates procedures required for the SDF to provide the U.S. military with logistical support.

MSDF and U.S. Navy Aegis-equipped vessels are currently engaged in gathering intelligence on and monitoring ballistic missiles around the clock. The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, which covers the Asia-Pacific region, has seven Aegis ships with the ballistic missile defense system, two of which are currently under repair due to accidents.

“It is significantly beneficial that maritime refueling saves the trouble of returning to bases, enabling us to seamlessly respond to situations,“ a senior SDF official said.

In the past, the MSDF refueled U.S. military vessels in the Indian Ocean based on the Antiterrorism Law, which was enacted in 2001. In May this year, MSDF vessels escorted a U.S. supply ship, implementing the mission of “U.S. military ship protection” as part of new roles stipulated in the security-related laws.Speech

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