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2ND LD: Defense Agency chief orders ASDF dispatch to Iraq.

TOKYO, Dec. 19 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING WITH ISHIBA COMMENTS, FRESH INFO)

Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba ordered on Friday the dispatch of an advance Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) team to Iraq, marking the first time since World War II that Japan will send troops to a country where fighting is taking place.

Ishiba also ordered the ASDF, the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) and the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) to prepare for the dispatch of their core units to Iraq where they will assist in reconstruction efforts.

''I issued orders (for preparation) to the ground, maritime and air'' divisions of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), Ishiba told a press conference.

''To the ASDF, I ordered it to organize units (to be dispatched) and to send an advance team...scheduled to depart on or after Dec. 26,'' he added.

Due to the ongoing instability in Iraq, the government has not decided when to deploy GSDF personnel, who are to work mainly in the southeastern city of Samawah on activities such as providing clean water for local residents.

The cabinet, meanwhile, decided Friday to appropriate 24.2 billion yen from the fiscal 2003 reserve funds for preparations for SDF deployment, Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said.

The money will cover costs for dispatching the ASDF's advance team as well as overall preparations, including purchasing equipment, training the SDF personnel in Japan and transporting them to Iraq and its vicinity.

Ishiba gave the ASDF dispatch order to Seiji Kagawa, commander of the Air Support Command, and the ASDF will shortly choose which members to send from the C-130 transport aircraft unit stationed at its Komaki base in Aichi Prefecture.

The ASDF will hold a send-off ceremony next Wednesday at the Komaki base, an event Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is planning to attend.

The ASDF is expected to send a 40-plus-member advance team to parts of Baghdad, Kuwait and Qatar to prepare for full-fledged activities, likely including transporting U.S.-led coalition forces.

The team will assess the local security situations before the planned dispatch of core ASDF units comprising some 150 members in January.

Ishiba issued the orders a day after announcing an outline of the agency's guidelines for implementing the planned deployment of the SDF to Iraq through next December.

Last week, Koizumi's administration decided on a basic plan to dispatch SDF troops to Iraq to provide humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.

Under the agency guidelines, the core units of the ground, air and maritime forces will depart Japan after the Defense Agency director general confirms the local situation, obtains the prime minister's approval and sets the departure date.

Ishiba said Thursday that Japan may suspend the dispatch of ground troops if security in Iraq further deteriorates.

The SDF dispatch has been a politically sensitive topic in Japan because of its war-renouncing Constitution, and the troops' activities and weapons use overseas are strictly limited.

According to the guidelines, GSDF personnel will conduct most of their work in Samawah. The agency also considers some parts of Baghdad to be ''noncombat zones,'' which allows GSDF liaison officers to be stationed at the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority's headquarters.

The ASDF will assist the coalition forces with transporting goods, such as medical supplies and food, on C-130 cargo planes, U-4 multipurpose aircraft and Boeing 747 government aircraft to airports in locations such as Baghdad, Basra, Balad and Mosul.

The MSDF will use Umm Qasr port, and its vessels will help transport GSDF personnel as well as materials to be used by them.

The guidelines stipulate the SDF cannot transport other nations' weapons and ammunition. However, the government has indicated that cases involving the transport of soldiers who are carrying their own weapons will be exempted.

In the event that combat breaks out near an SDF unit's area of operation, those troops will suspend work, evacuate, report the situation to the Defense Agency director general and await instructions for further action, according to the guidelines.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Dec 22, 2003
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Previous Article:Japanese editorial excerpts -3-.
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