Japan to send troops to Iraq

The Japanese government on Friday approved a draft bill that authorises the dispatch of military personnel to Iraq.

    Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
    (C) shakes hands with US Deputy
    Secretary of State Dick Armitage

    Government officials told reporters that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held a meeting with his ministers where they decided to immediately submit the bill.

    The bill will be debated by parliament in the 18 June session.

    "It was satisfactory that everybody approved it by taking a broad view of things," Koizumi said.

    The decision was expedited after Koizumi’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) agreed to delete a provision from the bill that Japanese troops would be involved in disposing of abandoned weapons of mass destruction.

    But instead of dealing with the issue of weapons of mass destruction, the deleted provision leaves the matter unresolved.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said the government may be directly involved in disposing of WMDs.

    “We will assess the situation when such an opportunity presents itself,” he said.

    Chief of the defence agency, Shigeru Ishiba, says Japanese forces will go to Iraq with adequate weaponry and will have the authority to use their firepower.

    The bill is expected to pass with relative ease as the LDP controls both the lower and upper houses of parliament.

    The new legislation can be extended if necessary, but is designed to expire in four years.

    A strategic ally of the US, Japan paid more than 10 billion dollars to assist in the US-led military campaign after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

    But Tokyo did not win Washington’s favour this time around by declining to send troops to take part in the war on Iraq.

    Japan's pacifist constitution, imposed on it by the US occupation following the Second World War, places restrictions on Japan's military.


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