SDF command respected, but U.S. to keep overall authority in multinational force

Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports

The United States on Tuesday said it respects Japan’s plan to keep Self-Defense Forces troops under its own command if the troops participate in the multinational force to be formed under a new United Nations Security Council resolution.

“I expect, like Polish forces and British forces and Italian forces, they’re under, obviously, their own chains of command within the country,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

“But the multinational force overall is overseen by the American command.”

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wants the SDF to participate in the U.N.-authorized multinational force being formed for the June 30 transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government.

In Tokyo on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Japan will retain its command over the SDF and decide on ground troop activities in Iraq, even if decisions go against those of a U.S. commander leading the multinational force.

“We will act on our own independent judgment, whatever contradictions (between decisions made by Japan and the multinational force) there may be,” Hosoda told a news conference.

Hosoda also said that Tokyo’s decision to retain command of the SDF was passed on to the U.S. and Britain prior to the adoption of the Security Council resolution on June 8, and they did not raise any particular opposition.

The LDP defense and diplomacy committees agreed to support plans for SDF participation at a joint meeting in the morning, despite recommendations of caution expressed earlier by some party members.

Japan plans to adopt the SDF-participation plan officially on Friday, claiming that the SDF’s participation in a multinational force does not violate the Constitution as long as the SDF only engages in humanitarian and reconstruction work under its own chain of command.

The opposition camp, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, is opposed to the plan and is criticizing the government for the lack of debate in the Diet. The DPJ is demanding that the Diet discuss the matter in an ad hoc session.