WITH PYONGYANG THREAT, DON'T DUMP ABE

Extend Indian Ocean mission: Koike

by Reiji Yoshida

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Yuriko Koike
Yuriko Koike
"We'd like to continue activities that are suitable for our country, based on the antiterrorism law," Koike said in a round-table interview with reporters, adding the government has no plans to revise the law to add new SDF missions.Maritime Self-Defense Force warships are deployed to the Indian Ocean to provide fuel to vessels from nations involved in the NATO-led antiterrorist and peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan.Japanese officials say Washington welcomes the logistics support and sees it as a symbol of Tokyo's commitment to the two nations' bilateral military alliance, according to Japanese officials.Touching on United Nations-led peacekeeping operations in Darfur, western Sudan, Koike said the Defense Ministry is not currently in a position to dispatch troops to the war-ravaged region.She said the government needs to determine whether a Sudan dispatch would conform to the country's five-point principle to send the SDF on a U.N. peacekeeping mission. The main point of the principle is there must be a ceasefire agreement among the parties as a prerequisite for sending in Japanese troops.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed Koike to her post last week. She replaced Fumio Kyuma, who was forced to step down after a June 30 speech in which he apparently tried to justify the atomic bombing of Nagasaki as an expedient to ending the war.Koike said that when she campaigns for the Liberal Democratic Party for the July 29 House of Councilors election, she will talk about the country's need to continue the Abe government in the face of the North Korean threat."I doubt if you really can defend your country if you start discussing – security policies (under a different administration) when every single second matters. I’d like (voters) to have the Abe government firmly maintain” power, Koike said.

Experts have been predicting for weeks that the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc will suffer a major setback in the Upper House election, maybe even losing the majority it holds in the chamber.

If the ruling bloc loses its majority, Abe might be forced to resign over the failure, which some observers feel would spark political chaos.

But Koike, who shares her political destiny with Abe, said he would not need to step down even under such a worst-case scenario.

“This is an Upper House election. He would not need to (resign),” Koike said, playing down the impact of an Upper House poll setback. The ruling bloc holds a majority in the Lower House, which can override the upper chamber when choosing a prime minister.