Japan will send troops to Iraq

Japan has completed its fact-finding mission to Iraq, and Tokyo could send troops to join US-led forces in the country before the end of December.

    The Japanese public strongly opposes US actions in Iraq

    Japan's reconnaissance team to Iraq returned home on Thursday, and was expected to report that it was safe enough to send Japanese ground troops to the southern city of Samawa.


    A spokesman for the Defence Agency confirmed that a few members of the dozen-strong mission would remain in Kuwait to prepare for the eventual dispatch of troops as liaison officers. This could still take place this year, if conditions allowed.


    The Japanese contingent went last week to camp Smitty in the

    suburbs of Samawa, some 270 kilometers (165 miles) southeast of

    Baghdad, where they were guests of a Dutch force with the US-led



    They were expected to report that it was safe enough to send

    Japanese ground troops to the city as it is relatively small and

    difficult for intruders or insurgents to infiltrate, news reports



    Public opposition


    On Tuesday Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reiterated his

    pledge Tuesday to send troops to help rebuild Iraq, despite polls

    showing overwhelming public opposition.


    But as the insurgency against the US-led occupation forces has

    intensified the government has shied away from fixing a firm date.


    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said on Thursday the

    government might approve a basic plan to dispatch troops, without

    setting a date.


    "We want to send troops as soon as possible. We may dispatch

    troops within this year if the situation allows," he said. 



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