No change in SDF’s humanitarian role in Iraq: Ishiba

Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba said Tuesday there has been no change in the Self-Defense Forces’ role of providing humanitarian aid in Iraq, following the transfer of power to the Iraqi government from the U.S.-led occupation authority Monday.

Ishiba told a news conference that the government will explain to the public that the SDF troops will not engage in the use of force, despite joining the U.N.-authorized multinational force in Iraq.

“If we are giving the public the impression that we will take part in a multinational force like the one during the Gulf War and use force or intimidate others through force abroad, we have to offer proper explanations (to correct) such misunderstandings,” he said.

The defense chief said he has been talking about the matter at gatherings in the leadup to the July 11 House of Councilors election.

Ishiba said the government will continue to make sure the SDF’s humanitarian and reconstruction activities in Samawah proceed smoothly and safely in the hope that the “good situation” in the southern Iraqi city will spread to the rest of the country.

Despite insurgent attacks in various parts of Iraq, Japan believes the security condition in Samawah will continue to be relatively stable.

On Monday, Japan welcomed the early transfer of power to the Iraqi people from the U.S.-led occupation authority.

It recognized the new Iraqi government with approval from the Cabinet.

The government also moved up from Wednesday the date that the SDF troops will join the multinational force in Iraq to Monday.