SDF’s Iraq mission linked to role in multinational force

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The government says participation in a U.S.-led multinational force is necessary so that the Self-Defense Forces can continue their humanitarian mission in Iraq after the scheduled transfer of power to an interim government there on June 30.

But some lawmakers and government officials say another viable option is for Japanese troops to continue their operations in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah as a regular member of the United Nations.

The new U.N. Security Council resolution, adopted Wednesday, authorizes a new multinational force to contribute to the “maintenance of security and stability.”

Its main job would be a high level of peace-enforcement work to calm insurgents, the kind of job that Japan’s SDF has avoided due to the Constitution’s prohibition of the use of military force.

Japan had eagerly sought inclusion of the term “humanitarian” in the U.N. Security Council resolution to allow for the SDF’s involvement in a multinational force. The term, however, is not in any of the sections outlining the duties of the U.S.-led military force.

The word does appear, but only in a section calling on “member states and international and regional organizations to contribute assistance to the multinational force, including military force to help meet the needs of the Iraqi people for security and stability, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance.”

Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba said Friday that after June 30, Japan could contribute as a U.N. member state through the continuation of the SDF’s current work.