Japan to Pull All Its Iraq Troops by May

February 2nd, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Japan to Pull All Its Iraq Troops by May

TOKYO - (AP) Japan will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq in
March and complete the pullout by May, ending its largest military mission since World War II, a news report said Tuesday.
Japan, which extended its noncombat mission to the southern Iraqi city of Samawah for another year in December, will pull its 600 troops out at about the same time British and Australian forces leave the area, Kyodo News agency said.
The extension of the noncombat mission in December gave the government the right to keep troops in Iraq for a year but did not necessarily guarantee that it would.
Officials from Australia, Britain, Japan and the United States reached a basic agreement over the timing of the withdrawals at a secret meeting in London last Monday, Kyodo said. Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force will hand over its camp to local residents after its pullout, according to the report.
A Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing government protocol, said no official decisions had been made regarding Japan's Iraqi mission.
In London, a spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defense said he was not aware of a meeting last week but that London speaks to its coalition partners frequently.
"Regarding our commitment, we've always said absolutely clearly that we'll withdraw from Iraq, but only when the job is done," the spokesman said on condition of anonymity according to government policy, adding that a withdrawal could begin later this year.
He refused to comment on any other country's plans for their troops.
Tokyo is separately considering a U.S. request to boost its 200-strong air force deployment to Kuwait, which currently transports humanitarian goods to southern Iraq, Kyodo said, without citing its sources.
Japan, Washington's top ally in East Asia, has been a staunch supporter of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and dispatched troops there in
2004 to purify water and carry out other humanitarian tasks.
The mission, Japan's largest overseas military dispatch since World War II, has grown increasingly unpopular with the public. Many Japanese say the deployment violates the constitution and has made Japan a target for terrorism.
The Australian government said Tuesday it had not received official word that Japan's forces will leave the country, but it would review Australia's troop commitment following a formal announcement.
"If we are formally informed by the Japanese government that it intends to withdraw its engineers from southern Iraq, the Australian government will then review the commitment that we have with our troops in that area," Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson told reporters Tuesday.
Australia has 450 troops protecting the Japanese contingent but hundreds more on other assignments in and around Iraq, including soldiers protecting diplomats in Baghdad and a navy ship HMAS Parramatta patrolling the Gulf.