Japanese face ban on Iraq travel

Ruling coalition lawmakers said Friday they are considering legislation aimed at banning Japanese civilians from entering Iraq, after three Japanese hostages were freed there Thursday and two of them voiced hope of returning.

Some coalition lawmakers also said the government should disclose how much money the government spent on all the operations required for the release of the three hostages.

Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, secretary general of New Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior partner in the bloc, cited the possibility of urging the three hostages or their families to shoulder the cost the government has paid.

At a task force meeting on the hostage crisis held at the Diet, Fukushiro Nukaga, chief of the LDP Policy Research Council, said, “We should study legislation for a travel ban in place of an evacuation advisory.” Coalition lawmakers at the meeting agreed to the proposal.

They were also briefed by Foreign Ministry officials about developments leading to the release of the three hostages.

The three are Soichiro Koriyama, 32, a freelance photojournalist; Nahoko Takato, 34, an aid worker; and Noriaki Imai, 18, an aspiring freelance writer said to be interested in researching the effects of depleted uranium rounds used by U.S. forces in Iraq.

A ministry official said, “We think we gained the understanding of the Iraqi people by explaining the purpose of the trio’s travel as well as what the Self-Defense Forces troops are doing.

“We appealed to the Islamic Clerics Association and many other people, and that bore fruit.”