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2 MSDF ships set sail to replace fleet in Indian Ocean.

TOKYO, Feb. 12 Kyodo

Two Japanese warships set sail Tuesday to replace a Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) fleet deployed in the Indian Ocean since last November as part of Japan's support for U.S.-led military action against terrorism.

The 4,950-ton destroyer Haruna from MSDF Maizuru base in Kyoto Prefecture and the 8,150-ton supply ship Tokiwa from Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture left their home ports Tuesday morning.

The two ships will be joined by the 3,950-ton destroyer Sawakaze, which will leave its home port in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture on Wednesday.

According to the Defense Agency, about 700 personnel will be dispatched on the three ships under the command of Rear Adm. Masahiko Sugimoto, commander of the 3rd MSDF Escort Flotilla, based in Maizuru.

The three ships will meet in Japan's coastal waters and sail together to the Indian Ocean, where they will replace the MSDF flotilla there.

The Japanese naval task force is involved in refueling U.S. and British warships deployed in the Arabian Sea.

Government officials say the refueling mission, originally scheduled to end in late March, is expected to be extended to mid-May.

In addition to the Haruna and the Sawakaze, the government plans to send a third destroyer, from MSDF Ominato base in Aomori Prefecture, to join the supply mission sometime in March.

The Japanese naval task force is primarily involved in delivering diesel fuel from the Persian Gulf coastal states to the allied warships.

Five MSDF vessels are currently deployed for refueling operations in the Indian Ocean. Three of them -- the destroyers Kurama and Kirisame and the supply ship Hamana -- are scheduled to return to their home port of Sasebo in mid-March.

The remaining ships -- the destroyer Sawagiri and the supply ship Towada -- will briefly join the operations of the second flotilla before sailing back to Japan.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Feb 18, 2002
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