An article by foreign affairs commentator and Cabinet Office adviser Yukio Okamoto pointed out that the United States has asked Japan to "at least protect its own tankers," but Japan refused because although maritime defense is possible under the Self-Defense Forces Law, domestic politics made this unpalatable. Japan will probably leave the protection of its tankers in the Persian Gulf in the hands of the United States once again, although there are voices in Japan urging their government to step up to the plate. - Adam Geibel
The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Towanda class multi-product replenishment ship "Tokiwa" and its escort, the Murasame class large frigate "Harusame" left port on 25 November. They are the first ships to leave Japan since the government decided in mid-November to extend its non-combat logistical support of the U.S. campaign for another six months. It is the ninth time overall navy ships have left for the Indian Ocean, since Japan began providing rear area support in November 2001. The two ships will provide transport fuel and supplies to U.S. ships, but the date of their return remains undecided.