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Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007

Cabinet pair issue car-top plea to horde at Shibuya

Staff writer

In a rare show of desperation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba stood atop a van Sunday in the crowded main intersection of Tokyo's Shibuya district, urging public support to pass the special antiterrorism bill now stranded in the Upper House.

News photo
Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura (holding microphone) exhorts the public Sunday afternoon in Tokyo to support the special antiterrorism bill being deliberated in the Diet. At right is Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba. MASAMI ITO PHOTO

"We are giving everything we've got to resume the (Maritime Self Defense-Force's) refueling activities in the Indian Ocean," Machimura told the crowd outside JR Shibuya Station. "The refueling activities have been truly appreciated internationally."

Pundits say it is extremely rare for Cabinet ministers to give soapbox speeches except during election campaigns and shows how much the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc wants to get the opposition-led Upper House to pass the bill.

Machimura, foreign minister for about a month under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, recalled meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in September.

"Karzai took my hand and pleaded for (Japan) to continue the refueling activities," Machimura said. "Grasping my hand firmly, Karzai said (the refueling activities) are a major source of strength for the Afghans."

Ishiba stressed that 93 percent of the world's opium is produced in Afghanistan, and money from narcotics is funding terrorists.

"A normal war is between two countries, where both fight with all of their might," Ishiba shouted into the microphone. "But in (terrorist wars), the sacrificed are those who are the weak, the civilians who are killed without reason. Terrorism denies all of the values that many countries, including Japan, treasure — freedom, democracy, human rights, freedom of religion."

The Diet enacted a special law soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. to enable the MSDF to provide fuel and water to multinational naval ships engaged in the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom-Maritime Interdiction Operation. But the MSDF activities ended at the start of last month when the special law expired amid the divided Diet. Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, has repeatedly stressed that the OEF-MIO is not officially authorized by the United Nations and thus is unconstitutional. The ships returned to Japan last month.

Machimura urged the public to look back 17 years, when Japan provided ¥1.6 trillion to the allied coalition that evicted Iraqi invaders from Kuwait during the Gulf War but received little appreciation for what was called checkbook diplomacy.

"It is common sense in the world that in order to be accepted as part of international society, you need to (take action) with other nations," Machimura said.

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The Japan Times

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