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Will Japan's new leaders continue to support US in Afghanistan?

Japanese Foreign Minister Okada said that Japan should focus on assistance to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The government has not been clear on whether it will continue its refueling mission.

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Soon after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's cabinet members were inaugurated Wednesday, Japan's new foreign minister Katsuya Okada underscored his country's commitment to the international community.

In his first official pronouncements, Mr. Okada said that the government should focus in its first 100 days on assistance to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A key question surrounding the DPJ has been its commitment to Japanese logistical support for US operations in Afghanistan, such as its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

The new foreign minister said Japan would not "simply" extend that naval mission. Many analysts have suggested that Japan will pull back from the mission early next year.

But Okada added that Japan should make its mark in terms of helping to stabilize the region. DPJ advisers have said that such help could take the form of medical and development aid.

"Under Mr. Okada's leadership, Japan will first promote humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan," says Toshiyuki Shikata, a law professor at Teikyo University and former lieutenant general with the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). "Then, the new government is likely to dispatch SDF troops to a relatively safe area in the country as a noncombat mission," says Mr. Shikata.

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