Decision to Send Troops to Iraq
By Jim Garamone
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced the decision to put troops
in Iraq in December. This is the first time Japanese forces will
serve as part of a coalition not sponsored by the United Nations.
The soldiers will be engaged in helping to rebuild Iraq, and will
be based in the southern part of the country. They will work with
Dutch soldiers, and will come under the command of a British general.
troops stand in formation in their new tent on their arrival
at Camp Virginia, about 30 miles south of the Iraqi border
in northern Kuwait January 17, 2004. A team of Japanese
soldiers heading to Iraq in the Asian power’s most controversial
deployment since World War Two flew into Kuwait early on
by Caren Firouz / Reuters
to send forces to Iraq is a "historic move," said Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers.
to meet with Japanese military leaders, said the Japanese decision
to send about 1,000 members of the Ground Self-Defense Force to
Iraq is welcomed by the international community.
officials said the move was a courageous one, and that the prime
minister "was ahead" of the Japanese people. Officials
also said that there is uncertainty as to what will happen in
Japan if the Japanese forces take casualties in Iraq.
reporters that operations in Iraq are not without risk. He said
the northern and southern parts of Iraq are a bit more stable
that the central and western areas. But, he said, former regime
loyalists and in some cases foreign jihadists target international
agencies and non-U.S. members of the coalition. "You can
never say that you’re free from risk," Myers said.
But the Japanese
have to ask themselves why it is important to help rebuild Iraq,
Myers said. "The reason is that it will be one less place
where terrorists can plan and operate," he said. "The
only way we’ll be successful is with strong international effort
in there, and Japan has decided to be part of that strong international
effort. It has the potential to change the dynamics, not only
in that region, but in the world."
said the capture of Saddam Hussein last month allowed coalition
forces to round up hundreds of regime cell leaders. "The
capture of Saddam Hussein has emboldened some people to come forward
without the fear of retribution," he said. "We’ve seen
an increase in the number of people who have come forward to offer
intelligence on where weapons caches are, where improvised explosive
devices are being built (and) those sorts of things."
He said that
overall the security situation in Iraq is improving, "but
it’s too early to say (whether) that’s a trend line or just a
the United States values the other contributions Japan is making
in the global war of terror. He praised the Japanese for helping
to rebuild Afghanistan, and said the Afghans agreeing on a constitution
is an example of the progress being made.
said that overall, the coalition is winning the war on terrorism.
He said strong international support remains the key, because
the effects of a terrorist strike are not localized. "Whether
the terrorism attack occurs in Riyadh, or Islamabad, or New York
City, or God forbid, Tokyo, the outcome is the same: it affects
all countries on this planet, not just the country where the act
occurred," he said. "We’re going to have to deal with
this scourge as we have with other scourges of the past."
States is working with Japan, China, Russia and South Korea to
convince North Korea to forgo nuclear weapons. These six-party
talks have been very useful, he said. "Clearly, you would
like to solve this issue of a nuclear North Korea, the chance
of proliferation of fissile materials (and) all those issues that
should worry all of us a lot. Our best chance for solving this
is through diplomacy," he said.
addressed questions about the global posture review and how changes
in the footprint of the U.S. military would affect Japan. "It
has been a long time since we’ve taken a hard look at how we are
arranged, given this new security environment," Myers said.
"For instance, some of the camps and posts and stations where
we are located now in the Republic of Korea are where we were
in 1953, when the armistice was signed."
changes in Korea, he said, these areas may no longer be the best
places to be based.
two fundamentals are factors in examining the global posture in
the Pacific region. First, the United States is a Pacific nation
and will remain committed to the region. "The other fundamental
is the security relationship we have with Japan," Myers said.
"This is clearly the most important relationship we have
in Asia, and that fundamental won’t change."
He said the
U.S. military is at the beginning stages of discussions about
changing the footprint of U.S. forces. These discussions are mostly
within the Pentagon, but some have been with Japanese counterparts.
"We’re a long way from making decisions," he said. "Whatever
we do will be done in consultation with the Japanese government."
the U.S.-Japan security relationship is absolutely vital to both
countries, not only in Asia, but internationally as well. "We
will continue to strengthen that alliance the best we can,"