Japan to join multinational force: Koizumi

Kyodo

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made it clear Thursday that he plans to make Self-Defense Forces troops in Iraq a part of the multinational force to be formed there under a newly adopted U.N. Security Council resolution.

“I think that a multinational force will be formed, and I want to consider what Japan can do as part of it, such as the continuation of humanitarian and reconstruction assistance,” Koizumi told a news conference after a three-day Group of Eight summit.

“In response to the unanimous adoption of a new U.N. resolution, Japan, as a responsible member of the international community, wants to make contributions that are commensurate with its status.”

Koizumi said he will discuss the issue of SDF participation in the force in Iraq with Japanese governing coalition members after he returns to Japan.

Japan has deployed SDF troops in Iraq for humanitarian and reconstruction missions since January.

The U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 Tuesday to adopt a U.S.-British resolution that gives international endorsement for the June 30 transfer of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition to the Iraqi interim government named last week. It also authorizes a U.S.-led multinational force to keep peace there.

Iraqi President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawer immediately welcomed Japan’s participation in the multinational force, saying there is no doubt that Japan is at the top of the invitation list.

Al-Yawer, who was in Washington after attending the G8 summit, said the SDF troops are being welcomed by the Iraqi people and praised Japan for its contribution.

In his news conference, Koizumi said Japan will respond flexibly to the issue of reducing Iraq’s huge debt burden.

“The degree of debt reduction will have a large influence on Japan because it is Iraq’s biggest creditor country,” he said. “But I am well aware that Iraq’s debt should not serve as a drag on its reconstruction.”

Meanwhile, on the subject of North Korea, Koizumi said there seems to be a change in the stance of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, as he is “eager to have dialogue” with the United States.

Koizumi visited Pyongyang in May for talks with the North Korean leader on the abduction issue, as well as security concerns, such as Pyongyang’s nuclear arms program. The pair first held talks in Pyongyang in September 2002.

“The benefits North Korea will gain from becoming a responsible member of the international community will be far larger than those it gains from possessing nuclear arms,” he said.

Koizumi urged the United States to promote dialogue with North Korea through six-party talks aimed at resolving the standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

The North Korean leader is expected to “respond calmly and sincerely,” he said.

Koizumi reiterated that Japan will not provide full economic assistance to North Korea before normalizing bilateral relations by comprehensively resolving the abduction issue, as well as nuclear and other security concerns.