Japanese defense chief plays down ''dangers'' in Iraq ahead of troop dispatch as thousands hold protests in Tokyo
Japan's Defense Agency Director General on Sunday dismissed concerns that Japanese forces getting ready to leave for Iraq were headed into increasingly risky conditions, while several thousand demonstrators took to the streets of Tokyo to oppose the expected dispatch.
Tokyo is preparing to deploy up to 1,000 military
personnel in southern Iraq on a "humanitarian mission" that
will be the military's largest operation since World War II.
Recent media reports from Samawah, the city where the
Japanese contingent will be based, have raised doubts about
the government's claim that the area is relatively stable.
The shooting over the weekend of an Iraqi police officer
in the city received wide media coverage in Japan, and the
government has said it is investigating reports of a
possible "terrorist plot" against a small advance team of
Japanese soldiers scouting the area.
However, defense chief Shigeru Ishiba said Sunday that he
didn't think the risks involved in the operation had
"At this point, we do not believe this means the security
level there has deteriorated compared to other regions,"
Ishiba said on Fuji TV.
"From the beginning, we have said that the possibility of an attack cannot be ruled out."
Meanwhile, an estimated 3,500 people protested the dispatch in a downtown Tokyo park Sunday. "We want the government to know that the people do not support this," the protest's organizer said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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