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Wednesday, July 2, 2003

DPJ decides to oppose sending SDF to Iraq, citing concerns over security


Staff writer

The Democratic Party of Japan decided Tuesday to oppose any dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces to help reconstruct Iraq.

News photo
Naoto Kan

The move will likely keep the ruling and opposition camps at loggerheads for the remainder of the current Diet session.

The DPJ's position, finalized at the day's meeting of its shadow Cabinet, effectively rejects a government-proposed bill to send SDF troops to Iraq.

The legislation is currently being debated by a House of Representatives committee.

The largest opposition force said it would demand that all wording concerning the SDF dispatch be omitted from the bill, but the ruling parties are unlikely to comply.

"Large-scale fighting is over in Iraq, but we are still seeing smaller conflicts," DPJ leader Naoto Kan told a news conference. "We cannot tolerate the SDF joining an occupation force."

The DPJ said it will also demand that all mention of three U.N. resolutions, which the government used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, should be dropped from the bill.

The DPJ has argued that the war was unilaterally waged by the U.S. in violation of international law and that it was not a war of self-defense and was not supported by international consensus.

The ruling triumvirate, for its part, indicated it would not bend to the DPJ.

"(The DPJ's proposals) are totally out of the question," a senior executive of the ruling bloc said, indicating the ruling camp is willing to ram the bill through the Lower House.

The three other opposition parties -- the Liberal Party, Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party -- have already expressed their opposition to the bill.

Hidenao Nakagawa, Diet affairs chief in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party, has repeatedly warned that the prime minister may dissolve the Lower House if opposition parties boycott Diet deliberations and paralyze proceedings.

The DPJ will submit its own version of the dispatch bill. Its amendments will include the reduction of the term of activities of Japanese staff in Iraq to two years from the proposed four years.

The DPJ meanwhile agreed that Japan should play an active role in Iraq by dispatching nonmilitary personnel.

But sending the SDF to occupied Iraq could violate Japan's war-renouncing Constitution, the DPJ argued.

Koizumi needs the bill to clear the Diet to avoid political humiliation, as he has promised the U.S. that Japan will send the SDF to Iraq as a symbol of its pledge to strengthen the bilateral military alliance.

Any blow to Koizumi's authority would also give momentum to ruling coalition lawmakers who opposed the bill's submission in the first place.



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