Japan hints at expanded Afghan role

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has said Japan will seek to expand cooperation with Nato in Afghanistan where the North American-European alliance leads peacekeeping operations.

    PM Koizumi wants Japan and Nato 'to be in close contact'

    "I believe there are many fields where Japan and Nato can work together. I want us to be in close contact," Koizumi said on Monday after

     a meeting with visiting Nato Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, according to a Japanese diplomat. 

    De Hoop Scheffer praised Japan's aid to reconstruct Afghanistan, including its leading role in the "disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR)" programme for former Afghan fighters,

     the diplomat who attended their 30-minute meeting said.

    "Japan has played a significant role in Afghanistan, providing the DDR programme. Nato wants to hold hands with Japan in helping Afghanistan," De Hoop Scheffer was quoted as telling Koizumi. 

    Landmark move

    Officially pacifist Japan, a close ally of the US, provided logistical support in the Indian Ocean during the 2001 war that ousted the Taliban government. 

    In a landmark move, Japan has deployed troops in Iraq in its first military mission since World War II to a country where there is active fighting.

    "In this region, Japan plays a significant role.
    It is important for Nato
    to build strong ties
    with Japan"

    Jaap de Hoop Scheffer,
    Nato Secretary-General

    Koizumi and De Hoop Scheffer touched upon Iraq in their discussions and also discussed the threat of weapons of mass destruction and the rise of China as a military power. 

    Koizumi reiterated his opposition to European Union plans to lift an embargo on selling arms to China. 

    "We do not want anything that might threaten stability in East Asia," Koizumi said. 

    De Hoop Scheffer said Nato hoped to build closer ties with Japan to deal with a variety of
    international concerns. 

    "In this region, Japan plays a significant role. It is important for Nato to build strong ties with Japan," he said. 



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