Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Japan to export arms to US, continue Iraq mission

In case anyone thought Japan was a functioning democracy, the LDP administration has decreed that it will export arms for the first time since the 1940s and keep 600 troops in Iraq. Without a vote in parliament, and contrary to public opinion.

First, the extension of the SDF's participation in the US-UK occupation of Iraq, in a Japan Time article:

Key members of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet effectively agreed Tuesday to keep ground troops in Iraq for another year, and are preparing to make a formal decision possibly Thursday.

"I think it's OK to extend the dispatch (of the Ground Self-Defense Force troops)," Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told reporters Tuesday morning.

Machimura made the comment after emerging from a meeting with Koizumi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda and Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono at the Prime Minister's Official Residence.

Read the rest of the article...

Even the Japan Times does not think that "it is OK" to keep troops in Iraq on Machimura, Ono and Koizumi's say-so. Here's their editorial:

The government is set to extend Japan's troop deployment in Iraq beyond Dec. 14 for another year, although Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has not adequately explained why an extension is necessary. Nor has the Diet debated the question in detail. A joint opposition bill aimed at ending the dispatch has been scrapped without being put to a vote.

Nearly 600 Self-Defense Force troops are stationed in Samawah, southern Iraq, to support humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in the area. But the security situation in Iraq remains volatile, even as the country prepares for its first free elections in January. What is needed now is a fundamental review of the SDF mission. A troop withdrawal should not be ruled out.

The mission, which started a year ago, has raised various issues. Perhaps the most important one is that the dispatch stems from Tokyo's support of a war -- an invasion launched by the United States without an explicit mandate from the U.N. Security Council -- whose international legitimacy was questioned. The war has strained international relations, casting a shadow over Japan's aid activities as well.

It is the first time that SDF troops have been dispatched to a foreign country in conflict. The government has taken pains to explain that the troops are performing noncombat duties in a noncombat area, but the Japanese public is increasingly skeptical. The lack of safety assurances makes the dispatch essentially different from previous SDF missions abroad, including the U.N.-backed peacekeeping operation in Cambodia and the logistic support (fuel supply) of the U.S. antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan.

In fact, the continued insurgency in Iraq is making the SDF presence there more difficult to sustain. Adding to the difficulty is the international perception that the war was not quite justified -- a perception reinforced by a U.S. government confirmation that no weapons of mass destruction existed at the time of the invasion. Japan -- which supported the military action as a member of the "coalition of the willing" -- is finding itself in an uncomfortable position. ...

"Not quite justified" might be the understatement of the year.

The second item is the dropping, without any interest in public opinion, of the ban on arms exports, which has limited the damage Japanese foreign policy has done over the years.

Japan to lift arms-export ban for U.S. missile shield project

Staff writer

The government's new basic defense policy will limit arms exports to missile defense-related products developed with the United States, and America would be the only recipient, politicians and government officials involved in this issue said Tuesday.

The policy will be adopted later this week.

The officials said sales of weapons and equipment concerning missile defense will be made possible as an exception to Japan's self-imposed ban on arms exports.

In announcing the new policy, which will come in the form of a statement issued by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the government will clearly state that Japan will adhere to a "cautious policy" concerning arms exports, they said.

This was the most cautious among the options considered within the ruling coalition and the government on the issue of whether to lift the decades-old export ban. The Liberal Democratic Party, under strong pressure from the domestic defense industry, had been demanding that weapons exports to all nations be allowed in principle.

Based on the LDP position, the government initially planned to let firms participate in weapons development and production outside of the joint missile defense project. It also planned to allow sales of equipment deemed purely defensive, including flak jackets and night-vision goggles, to all nations in principle.

But the LDP's coalition partner, New Komeito, which is backed by the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, insisted that arms exports be limited to areas related to missile defense projects with the U.S.

Read the rest...

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