Iraqi premier asks Japan to extend troop mission

December 6th, 2005  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraqi premier asks Japan to extend troop mission

by Hiroshi Hiyama

TOKYO, Dec 5 (AFP) - Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari called Monday on
Japan to extend its controversial military deployment to the war-torn
country which is set to expire next week.

Despite growing calls in the United States for a pullout, Japan is all but
certain to extend its largely symbolic mission of 600 troops in the
relatively safe southern Iraqi city of Samawa into next year.

Japan is reportedly hoping to pull out sometime in 2006 with Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi telling Jaafari that Japan could help Iraq more as an
economic rather than military partner once security improved.

Jaafari, paying a brief first visit to one of his government's main
financial backers, said Iraqis "appreciate" the Japanese troops, who are on
Tokyo's first mission since World War II to a country at war.

"I know the mission of the Self-Defense Forces will expire on (December)
14th. I deeply hope you extend it," Jaafari told Koizumi, according to a
Japanese official privy to the talks.

"We believe it's too early for the Self-Defense Forces to exit Iraq,"
Jaafari said. "Extending the deployment would be investing in Iraq's

Koizumi said that the praise would "encourage" the Japanese troops.

"I recognize your high regard for the Japanese troops and your request to
extend the mission," Koizumi told Jaafari. "I will take it into account when
we make our decision comprehensively."

Opinion polls in Japan also find that a majority of people oppose the Iraq
mission, which is widely seen as a way for the officially pacifist country
to exert its global clout in ways other than handing out aid.

However, the troops have not suffered any casualties or even fired a shot in
their two-year deployment in Iraq.

Jaafari assured Koizumi that "terrorist activities are more suppressed in
the north and south of the country" such as in Samawa.

Koizumi told Jaafari, who was accompanied by his oil minister, that Japanese
companies hoped for a more stable Iraq.

"Once further stability is achieved, I imagine that private companies would
go into those areas and could be of further assistance to Iraq, possibly
more so than the Self-Defense Forces in the rebuilding of Iraq," Koizumi

Japan's defense chief Fukushiro Nukaga paid a flying visit to Samawa at the
weekend and told Koizumi that the conditions were "generally stable,"
recommending an extension of the troop mission.

Koizumi's cabinet is expected to extend the deployment for one year but
hopes to pull out the troops in 2006, according to Japanese media. Japan is
considering May as the date to end the deployment, but is looking for
flexibility in determining the timing of the pullout, Kyodo News reported
last week.

Japan calls its military the Self-Defense Forces as it is barred under its
US-imposed 1947 constitution from keeping an armed forces.

But under a proposed revision of the constitution put out by Koizumi's
Liberal Democratic Party last month, Japan would once again have a
"military" in name while remaining pacifist.