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Japan opposition chief says “No” to Afghan mission

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Tue Aug 7, 5:30 AM ET

TOKYO (Reuters) – The head of Japan’s main opposition party reiterated his opposition to extending support for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and said his party might submit a bill to scrap Tokyo’s mission to help rebuild war-torn Iraq.

The policy put forward by Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, could sour Tokyo’s security ties with Washington.

“The Afghan war was started by (U.S.) President (George W.) Bush, who said it was a war to be fought by the United States,” Ozawa told reporters on Tuesday.

“Therefore it had nothing to do with the United Nations or the international community,” Ozawa said.

He said his party may also propose withdrawing Japan’s air force personnel dispatched to help with reconstruction work in Iraq. But such a bill would most likely be overturned by the lower house, which is dominated by the ruling coalition.

Ground troops sent to Iraq by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s predecessor completed their non-combat mission last year, but about 200 air force personnel have remained in Kuwait to airlift supplies to the U.S. military in Iraq.

Abe also wants to extend a law enabling Japan’s navy to provide fuel and goods for U.S.-led coalition warships in the Indian Ocean as support for operations in Afghanistan.

While Ozawa opposes this, he said his party would leave open the possibility of Japan taking part in Afghan operations sanctioned by the United Nations.

Last week’s election deprived Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner of their majority in the upper house, meaning the Democrats and their allies can reject bills approved by the lower chamber.

Bills rejected by the upper house can be returned to the lower chamber and enacted by a two-thirds majority, but that is a time-consuming process, and the law enabling the Indian Ocean operation expires on November 1.

Ozawa said Japan should forge a “military and non-military” alliance with the United States on an equal footing.

“I do not think that supporting the Bush administration’s policy on Iran and Afghanistan is everything for Japan-U.S. relations. There are many other important issues.”

“As long as we call it ‘the Japan-U.S. alliance’, we must have relations on an equal footing.”

Ozawa, 65, a former LDP lawmaker who left the party in 1993, has long advocated making Japan’s security policy less constrained by its pacifist constitution.

The DPJ position has prompted concern in Washington, and U.S. ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer is expected to press the case for continuing Japan’s Afghan mission when he meets Ozawa on Wednesday.

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Written by afghandevnews

August 7, 2007 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Security

One Response

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  1. As an Australia-based Mariners fan, I found your blog on google and read a few of your other Mariners posts.
    I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.


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