Japan may extend Iraq troop dispatch
TOKYO: Japan may extend its controversial non-combat troop dispatch to Iraq, a key gesture of support for Washington ahead of a meeting on Tuesday between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and US President George W Bush.
Koizumi has expended considerable political capital to support the US-led war in Iraq and send about 550 troops to the southern Iraqi city of Samawa in Japan’s riskiest overseas military dispatch since World War Two, a mission that has divided the country.
Japan’s chief government spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda said on Tuesday, however, that the dispatch may well be extended past its current Dec. 14 end. “If conditions remain as they are now, we are now thinking that our continued participation is necessary,” Hosoda told a news conference. He added that a final decision would be made after taking a broad look at Japan’s aid efforts and the security situation in Iraq over the next few months.
Koizumi is set to meet Bush in New York on the sidelines of a United Nations event. On Monday, Koizumi expressed readiness to extend the mission in a meeting with Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, although he did not say how long an extension might be, Kyodo news agency reported. reuters