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Saturday, Dec. 9, 2006

HE STILL WON'T ENDORSE 'AMERICAN WAR'

Kyuma admits Tokyo backed Iraq attack


Staff writer

In an embarrassing overnight flip-flop, Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma withdrew Friday his previous remarks that the government did not officially support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did so only in a private capacity.

News photo
Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma (left) attends an extraordinary Cabinet meeting Friday with Prime Minister Shinzo Ane and health minister Hakuo Yanagisawa. KYODO PHOTO

Kyuma's remarks caused a stir, particularly because he heads the Defense Agency, which still has an Air Self-Defense Force unit deployed in the region to provide airlift support for U.S.-led multinational forces and United Nations staff working in the war-torn country.

During a foreign and defense committee session of the Upper House on Thursday, Kyuma said Koizumi expressed support for the war only at news conferences, and that this was not the official position of the government.

But Kyuma admitted Friday that he "did not have enough knowledge" of the government stance on the Iraq war, acknowledging that the Cabinet officially adopted a unified view supporting the U.S.-led war.

"In that sense, Koizumi's view (expressed) during the news conferences was an official view," Kyuma told reporters after his earlier remarks made headlines in Friday's morning newspapers.

But Kyuma maintained he is reluctant to endorse the U.S.-led war against Iraq, saying there might have been an alternative to waging war to deal with Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction -- a claim that proved false.

"I still wonder if there might have been better measures" for dealing with the issue, Kyuma said.

Despite these reservations, Kyuma defended the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces for missions in Iraq, insisting that the SDF units were dispatched based on U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"The SDF has been dispatched (to help with the) reconstruction of Iraq, based on U.N. resolutions, not to express support for an American war," a visibly angry Kyuma said when a reporter questioned him on the apparent contradiction between his personal opinion and his official stance as the head of the Defense Agency.

Kyuma, who was deputy policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party when the war was launched March 20, 2003, was critical of Koizumi's unequivocal support for the U.S.-led war at the time.

Japan stationed 600 Ground Self-Defense Force troops in Samawah from December 2003 to July on a reconstruction mission. An ASDF transport unit continues to perform airlifts between Kuwait and Iraq.



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