Mon, Aug 13, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Japan may rethink support for US' Afghanistan force

AP , TOKYO

The new president of the Japanese parliament's upper house called for a rethink of Japan's support of coalition forces in Afghanistan yesterday, as a news report said his opposition party will suggest replacing that mission with humanitarian aid.

Coming off a crushing parliamentary election victory last month, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan has threatened to oppose renewing a law that allows Japanese navy vessels in the Indian Ocean to provide fuel to US-led forces. The law has been extended three times since 2001 under the pro-US ruling Liberal Democrats, and is set to expire in November.

The new Democratic head of parliament's upper house, Satsuki Eda, told a talk show yesterday that Japan should be cautious over again renewing its support. He also said Japan needed to review its relationship with its top ally, the US.

"We must engage in serious debate over what an extension would mean for Japan, and for the world," Eda told public broadcaster NHK.

"There is a need for debate on the nature of Japan's relationship with the US," he said.

Eda's comment came as a news report said yesterday that the Democrats may submit their own law on Japan's contributions to Afghanistan that focuses on medical and food aid, and assistance in education and vocational training.

The proposed law, which the DPJ intends to draft by October, may involve providing logistical assistance to the UN-sanctioned multinational Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Afghanistan, according to a report in the Nikkei Shimbun business daily. PRTs serve as regional security umbrellas for development and reconstruction efforts to build infrastructure in the wartorn country.

Though protocol dictates that Eda, as president of parliament's upper legislature, should no longer speak for his own party, the appointment of an opposition lawmaker to the top job is expected to bring great changes to the face of Japan's political landscape.

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