Mon, Nov 17, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Japan still planning to send Iraq troops


The US ambassador to Japan predicted yesterday that the Japanese government would send troops to Iraq this year, despite its decision to postpone such a move.

Responding to questions from troops at this US Marine base, Howard Baker said that the decision by the Japanese government "is still very much in their minds."

"But I think, bottom line, is that the Japanese will still dispatch a group of Self Defence Forces to Iraq -- and probably still this year."

A Marine asked visiting US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld what effect any decision by Japan not to send troops would have on the presence of American forces in Iraq.

"They have not decided not to send troops," Rumsfeld responded during a visit to this Japanese island.

He then asked Baker to respond.

"My understanding is that the original announcement that the Japanese will send some of their Self Defence Force to Iraq still stands -- they still plan to do that," the ambassador said.

"What they backed off, as I understand it, is a firm date for doing that," Baker added.

"It is still very much in their minds. I think the [Japanese] survey team that's on its way to Iraq now will probably give a recommendation on when."

Tokyo had been expected to commit about 150 troops to Iraq before the end of the year.

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