UNCONSTITUTIONAL?

Role in multinational force raises doubts

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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s promise that Japan will continue to commit troops to the reconstruction of Iraq was met with a mixed response in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The remark, made to U.S. President George W. Bush during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of this year’s Group of Eight summit on Sea Island, Ga., was taken to mean that Japan would participate in the multinational force to be established under a new U.N. resolution.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the government has not formally decided whether the Self-Defense Forces will participate in the force.

Whether Tokyo can retain command over the SDF troops it dispatches will be a key point in making that decision, he told a news conference.

This point is pivotal because Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution prohibits it from exercising the right of collective defense.

“That’s a very important point,” he said. “We have to examine (the issue) because various legal situations concerning the multinational force and domestic laws will change” under such circumstances.

Mizuho Fukushima, who heads the Social Democratic Party, told a news conference in Okayama the same day that the SDF’s participation in the multinational force would violate the Constitution.

But Shinzo Abe, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, told a news conference in Tokyo that the scenario poses no constitutional problem. The latest U.N. resolution says the force would offer humanitarian assistance, and that is what the SDF troops in Iraq are already doing, he said.

Seiji Maehara, security chief of the Democratic Party of Japan’s shadow Cabinet, said the SDF should be withdrawn before the planned June 30 transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis.

He told a news conference that the current situation in Iraq no longer fits the conditions assumed under a special law that enables the SDF to conduct humanitarian missions in Iraq. He said a new law is necessary for the SDF’s operations in the country to continue.

The Japanese Communist Party said in a statement that the SDF’s participation in a multinational force would be unconstitutional. It said the new force would only be a change in name for the current coalition force already in Iraq, which is centered around U.S and British troops.

Leaders agree on Iraq

SEA ISLAND, Ga. (Kyodo) Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed Tuesday with European leaders that the international community should continue to cooperate on ensuring the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted earlier in the day.

Koizumi, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac each welcomed the unanimous adoption of the U.N. resolution as a result of international cooperation, a Japanese official told reporters.