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Japan's Lower House Approves Extension of Afghan Naval Mission


Japan's lower house has approved a one-year extension of the country's naval mission to support U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan.

Japan's Cabinet approved the extension earlier this month. The measure still must be approved the Japan's upper house.

Japan's maritime self-defense forces were sent to the Indian Ocean in 2001 to provide fuel for coalition warships. The current mission was set to expire November 1.

Under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Tokyo also sent about 600 non-combat troops to participate in reconstruction work in southern Iraq. That mission ended in July, and was the country's first deployment of troops to a combat zone since World War II.

Critics in Japan say both operations violate the country's pacifist constitution.

Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has promised to strengthen ties with the United States and work toward revising the constitution's "no war" clause.

The "Article Nine" clause in the 1947 constitution bars the use of military force to settle international disputes, and only allows armed forces for self-defense.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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