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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007

Panel passes bill to end Iraq mission

Staff writer

In another symbolic move reflecting the divided Diet, a House of Councilors panel on foreign affairs passed a bill Tuesday to end the Air Self-Defense Force's airlift mission supporting the reconstruction of Iraq.

The bill, submitted by the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, is set to be approved Wednesday by the opposition-controlled Upper House and sent to the Lower House, where it faces certain rejection because of the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc's comfortable majority in that chamber.

During the day's session of the Upper House foreign affairs committee, DPJ lawmaker Keiichiro Asao, the defense minister in the party's shadow Cabinet, argued that the ASDF mission is merely a gesture to show Japan's support for the United States, which launched the war in Iraq in 2003.

The DPJ "thinks the various (Self-Defense Forces activities) should be stopped immediately and (Japan) should consider the current situation in Iraq and take measures that are suitable for our nation to support Iraq's reconstruction," Asao said.

Tokushin Yamauchi of the Social Democratic Party pointed out that many civilian lives have been sacrificed in the Iraq war.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, however, noted Japan bears no responsibility for any Iraqi civilian deaths.

"The SDF has not fired a single bullet (in Iraq) nor has any SDF member been killed," he said. "On the contrary, I think Japan helped the people through its humanitarian support."

The special law for Iraq's reconstruction was approved by the Diet in July 2003 and authorized the deployment of Ground Self-Defense Force troops for a noncombat mission in southern Iraq and the ASDF airlift operation, which is based in Kuwait.

The GSDF troops exited Iraq in July 2006 while the ASDF continues its airlift operations between Kuwait and Iraq for the multinational forces and the United Nations.

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The Japan Times

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