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SDF could act under U.S. control at Baghdad airport.

TOKYO, June 28 Kyodo

The government envisages that if Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel are dispatched to Iraq, they would operate at or near Baghdad airport under U.S. military control to supply water and food to U.S. soldiers and Iraqis, government sources said Friday.

The possible mission involving up to 1,000 SDF personnel has been eyed because the airport, which effectively serves as a U.S. military base, would be safer than other areas in the country, they said.

A mission involving SDF members acting under U.S. military control could fuel anxiety in Japan that the SDF could become targets of attack by Iraqis.

The use of weapons by Japanese troops overseas is strictly limited under the war-renouncing Constitution, and the security situation in Iraq has become a topic of domestic concern.

About 10 Japanese diplomats and defense officials plan to fly to the United States next Tuesday to work out details of the deployment plan, the sources said. The Japanese delegation is expected to include officers from the Ground, Air and Maritime Self-Defense Forces.

The Japanese and U.S. officials are expected to flesh out the plan for possible SDF involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq, at the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.

Japan's current law falls short of allowing the government to dispatch the SDF to Iraq. Parliament is debating a bill for a new law to allow it to do so.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's ruling coalition wants to pass the new legislation by the end of July.

The government envisages up to 300 members of the Ground Self-Defense Force could be involved in missions supplying water for U.S. soldiers, they said.

The Air Self-Defense Force also plans to send 200 members to help in the mission.

The ground personnel could also supply water and food to Iraqi people at or near the airport, the sources said.

Part of the airport could serve as a joint base for the ground and air forces.

The government has looked at possibly sending SDF personnel to the downtown area of Baghdad to provide humanitarian assistance to Iraqis, but the Ground Staff Office has balked at the idea, saying it would be too dangerous.

The Maritime Self-Defense Force plans to send vessels, including a transport ship with 500 personnel, to the Persian Gulf mainly to carry water-purifying vehicles, the sources said.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jun 30, 2003
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