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Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001

Tokyo lauded for attempts to do the right thing

Staff writer

WASHINGTON -- Though some have criticized Tokyo's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. as being sluggish, a Japan expert at a Washington-based think tank argues otherwise.

News photo
William Breer

"Japan has done more than expected," William Breer, Japan chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said during a recent interview.

"In fact, Prime Minister (Junichiro) Koizumi was one of the first foreign leaders to offer his condolences and disaster relief support.

"The prime minister's visit in Washington (in September) was designed to underscore Japan's commitment to provide moral, political diplomatic and material support to the campaign against terrorism," he said.

Breer, who spent 35 years in the foreign service before accepting his CSIS post, said officials in Tokyo clearly remember the lessons they learned during the Persian Gulf War of 1990 -- lessons that provoked Japan to respond promptly to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Domestic policymakers have been haunted by the experience of the Gulf War, during which Japan contributed $13 billion to the U.S.-led multilateral forces but offered no military personnel.

As a result of its actions, Japan was excluded from a list of countries cited by Kuwait as warranting its appreciation.

According to Breer, who has also served as a political officer, political counselor and deputy chief of mission with Ambassadors Michael Armacost and Walter Mondale at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the U.S. military campaign against the Taliban was "pretty accurate" and made great progress in damaging the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

And with the allies' focus shifting toward the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Breer said Japan can play a significant role in this area by providing financial support and human input, including contributions from Sadako Ogata, a former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

She is a "highly skilled bureaucratic leader," Breer said, welcoming Koizumi's selection of Ogata as his special envoy to Afghanistan.

Breer stated that the U.S. would never expect Japan to participate in anything resembling recent U.S. ground action in Afghanistan. He welcomed an emerging debate by Diet lawmakers, however, regarding possible revisions to Article 9 of the Constitution that would allow the Self-Defense Forces to expand their activities.

"I welcome any contribution Japan can make. . . . The movement is in healthy development," he said.

Breer also said that Koizumi has been received favorably in Washington thus far due to his pledges to implement various reforms.

"Such personal trust between President (George W.) Bush and Koizumi was nonexistent with (former Prime Minister Yoshiro) Mori," he said.

"He is the only hope right now."

Breer remarked that Japan should place the highest priority on reforming its banking sector.

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