The Japanese Navy will terminate a naval refuelling mission in support of US led operations in Afghanistan as the mandate expires in January 2010, according to Defence Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

The Japan Maritime Self Defence Force will remove the two ships from the Indian Ocean, where they have been deployed since 2001.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who recently took office, has opposed the mission and said the country should take other measures to help Afghanistan restore peace.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said that Japan is studying what other contributions would be best for the region and hoped to come up with a proposal within weeks.

“We believe that civilian support for the people’s livelihood in that country, such as agricultural reconstruction, would lead to a fundamental solution to what constitutes the basis of terrorism,” Hirano said.