Saturday, January 13, 2007

Japan Considering Iraq Options

Japan is considering its options regarding Air Self-Defense Force personnel deployment and financial assistance to Iraq following U.S. President George W. Bush's announcement of a new strategy Wednesday, according to sources. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said at a press conference that Japan is considering a plan to continue providing assistance. "We'll actively work with the international community to help overcome the current difficulties in Iraq and bring about a stable state through the deployment of the ASDF in air transportation missions, the provision of yen loans and other support," Shiozaki said.The government is expected to closely observe any changes in the security situation and consider how long ASDF personnel should continue to operate in Iraq. Three C-130 transport planes and about 210 ASDF personnel are currently engaged in air transportation missions under the special law on Japan's support for Iraq reconstruction. The government plans to extend the law, which expires at the end of July, and continue to deploy personnel. A high-ranking official at the newly upgraded Defense Ministry said the timing of the final withdrawal of ASDF personnel from Iraq would depend on the effectiveness of the new U.S. plan."If the reinforcement of U.S. troops brings stability and a full-scale withdrawal of multinational forces begins, the demand for the ASDF's services will lessen," the official said. "It's crucial we form a clear view of when the security situation will stabilize." The need for additional financial assistance may also need to be examined. "We'll also have to consider (further financial aid) if the United States calls upon us for assistance," said a top Foreign Ministry official in regard to the more than $1.1 billion in additional funds allocated by the United States as part of its new strategy.