Japan's prime minister vows to continue with troop dispatch to Iraq amid growing public opposition
Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has vowed to press ahead with a full deployment of Japanese troops in Iraq as an advance team headed to the Iraq border from Kuwait.
"If we only make a material contribution and leave the humanitarian contribution to other countries, we cannot assume responsibility as a member of the international community," he said, opening a new parliamentary session.
Koizumi also suggested he was ready to accept the possibility of Japanese casualties, amid ongoing violence against occupying forces.
"We cannot say Iraq is safe, but peace cannot be achieved only with words," he said.
Parliament must still formally approve the dispatch of hundreds of Japanese forces to Iraq announced in December, although an advance team of ground troops flew out to Kuwait last week to set the stage for Japan's humanitarian operations in the war-ravaged country.
Around 30 members of the team left their camp in Kuwait Monday and were due to reach the southern Iraqi city of Samawa later in the day to prepare for the arrival of the core contingent, in the first deployment by Japan's military in a "hostile region" since World War II.
Up to 600 ground troops are to be deployed in Iraq by late March, with logistic support from around 400 airforce and naval personnel in the region.
"A just act means neither avoiding criticism nor seeking praise. It means a natural act as a human being," Koizumi said, quoting an early Chinese philosopher.
Meanwhile, the Japanese nation is still divided over the planned full deployment.
According to the latest opinion poll, published Monday, public support for sending Japanese troops to Iraq had risen to 40 percent, while about half the public remain opposed.
However, Koizumi's ruling coalition, which dominates both the lower and upper houses, is likely to secure parliamentary approval for the planned dispatch later this month. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)