Japan to request clarification of WMD remark

by Reiji Yoshida

Tokyo will ask Washington to explain “the real intention” behind Secretary of State Colin Powell’s recent statement that weapons of mass destruction will probably never be found in Iraq, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Wednesday.

Powell told a Senate hearing Monday “it’s unlikely that we will find any stockpiles” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a statement that observers say could hurt Tokyo’s case in supporting the U.S.-led war against Iraq last year.

Hosoda, the top government spokesman, said it is unclear if Powell was saying the U.S. had failed to discover WMD despite its all-out search, or that U.S. intelligence about Iraq’s WMD program was flawed from the start.

“We’ll make an inquiry. It’s a matter of course,” Hosoda said, without noting when the government will do so.

Hosoda said the U.S. has been conducting investigations in Iraq, and Tokyo thus cannot say on its own if such weapons exist. He also said Japan supports the war in Iraq not only because of the WMD issue, but also due to various other factors, including resolutions adopted by the United Nations, Iraq’s reactions to them and Iraq’s past invasions of other countries.

“We have to confirm what (Powell) exactly said and then examine if it has anything to do with past judgments of the Japanese government (on the war on Iraq),” Hosoda said.