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Japan Gambles With First Dispatch to Combat Areas

Posted July. 04, 2003 21:53,   


Japan`s Lower House of Parliament opened its plenary session yesterday and passed a bill endorsed by Japan`s three-party ruling coalition which includes the Liberal Democratic Party allowing the government to send the Self-Defense Forces to help in the reconstruction of Iraq.

"Even the justification of the U.S. led war in Iraq is being questioned as no weapons of mass destruction have been found. There has been objection to sending our soldiers to such a dangerous area where causalities would likely occur." Japan`s four opposition parties including the Democratic Party said, during the vote.

The Upper House will present a statement that explains the purpose of registration on Monday and deliberations are to start the following day. The bill is assured of passing in the Upper House as the ruling party holds the majority in the Upper house, so it is certain that it will pass later this month.

According to the Japanese government, about 1000 Self-Defense Force troops will be dispatched to non-combat areas in Iraq this October to assist the U.S. and British Forces in maintaining security, the Asahi Shimbun reported yesterday.

If the legislation, which has a four-year lifespan, becomes law, the Japanese government will be able to send its Self-Defense Forces and equipment to Iraq without consent or approval of the Diet. Although Japan dispatched soldiers overseas before as a part of peace-keeping operations, it has never sent troops to dangerous areas like Iraq where there is no clear line between combat and non-combat areas.

The Japanese government will send a team of inspectors to Iraq to decide the size and scope of their troops, areas that their troops are to be located, and the period of their activities in country. Then a meeting of cabinet ministers will confirm a master plan that states these details.

"It is highly likely that Japan will have to use military force overseas, although Japan is currently prohibited from doing so," a Japanese newspaper said yesterday, rejecting the troop dispatch.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government decided yesterday to send two C130 cargo aircraft to Jordan, Iraq`s neighbor to transport aid on Thursday under the Peace Keeping Operations Act.

The aircraft will transport aid supplies from European countries such as Italy to Jordan and carry SDF troops to transport the goods into Iraq.

Hun-Joo Cho hanscho@donga.com