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Ishiba indicates Japan may participate in U.N. force in Iraq.

TOKYO, May 16 Kyodo

Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba indicated Sunday that Japanese troops may participate in the U.N. multinational force in Iraq under a new U.N. resolution and said logistical support for maintaining public security differs from collective self-defense.

''It would depend on how the new U.N. resolution turns out, but it's not to say that Japan cannot participate just because it is a multinational force,'' Ishiba said on the Fuji Television Network.

Ishiba added that as a prerequisite, Japan must first figure out how its participation would relate to war-denouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, which denounces ''the right of belligerency.''

The government interprets Japan's pacifist Constitution as prohibiting Japan from exercising the right of collective self-defense, though it is entitled to such a right under international law.

Joining a multinational force on a mission of security maintenance has so far been considered as exercising the right to collective self-defense, but Ishiba indicated his belief to the contrary.

''In any case, we must continue our activities (in Iraq),'' he said, referring to the 530 ground troops stationed in Samawah, southern Iraq, to help rebuild local infrastructure, purity water and provide medical relief.

On the clashes between militants and Dutch forces as well as Iraqi police in Samawah, Ishiba admitted that the security situation has deteriorated, but mentioned no plans of withdrawing the Japanese troops.

''It cannot be denied that security has worsened, but the people in Samawah are not supporting them (the militants),'' he said. ''The Dutch forces are fulfilling their responsibility of maintaining security in Samawah.''

Japan dispatched Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Samawah under a special law permitting the deployment despite the war-renouncing Constitution. But the law restricts the troops' activities to areas the government designates as noncombat zones.

There has been a series of grenade and mortar attacks aimed at the Dutch forces in Samawah recently believed to be related to supporters of militant Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The SDF camp has also come under attack on several occasions, but no Japanese troops have been injured.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:May 17, 2004
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