The Japanese government approved a bill at a Cabinet meeting Friday to extend the deployment of Japan 's Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) in Iraq for two more years, Kyodo News said.
The bill still needs to be passed by the parliament before it can be enacted. The overseas airlift operations are authorized by a special measures law, which expires July 31.
The ruling coalitions are seeking to pass the bill in the current Diet session through June 23, while major opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), plans to introduce a counterproposal to abolish the special measures law, the report said.
"The Iraq war is not based on a consensus of the international community," DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa was quoted.
The special measures law to support Iraq's reconstruction was enacted in 2003. The government then established a "basic plan" to dispatch troops to Iraq. The basic plan, subject to Cabinet authorization once almost every year, has been modified for several times to extend Self-Defense Force's deployment in Iraq.
The ASDF began airlift operations from a base in Kuwait in March 2004, initially to support Japanese ground troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, using a C-130 transport plane. After the withdrawal of Japan's ground troops from Iraq in July 2006, the ASDF expanded the airlifting of personnel and supplies for the United Nations and multinational forces to cover airports in Baghdad and Arbil in the north.