Command over SDF in force assured: document

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The government released a document Monday outlining the oral agreements Japan made with the United States and Britain that allow Japan to maintain its own command over the Self-Defense Forces elements in the U.S.-led multinational force to be formed in Iraq after the June 30 sovereignty transfer.

The document was presented to a special committee on Iraq issues at the House of Councilors. But the government refused to provide English-language versions of the agreements, as requested by both ruling and opposition party members of the committee.

The document says that humanitarian and reconstruction assistance are part of the multinational force’s mission and that Japan can suspend operations or pull its troops out at its own discretion.

Opposition lawmakers have said the government might have distorted the official Japanese translation to avoid violating the Constitution.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a news conference Monday that the document clearly shows that the SDF will continue its humanitarian and reconstruction assistance activities “under the Japanese command, and not that of the multinational force.”

According to a U.N. resolution on which the multinational force is based, the force will operate “under unified command.”

But the government has said that “unified command” of the multinational force actually means a “unified headquarters,” which does not necessarily mean that control over the whole multinational force will be integrated.

Foreign Ministry officials said an English version has not been compiled because the confirmation was made orally between Japanese ministers and U.S. and British high-level officials at the Japanese embassies in Washington and London, and the outcomes were written up in Japanese.

The document does not specify who exchanged the oral agreements.