• Kyodo

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Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani said Thursday that Japan may deploy a Self-Defense Forces contingent in East Timor, should fresh peacekeeping operations be needed after its independence is officially recognized, Japanese officials said.

“We must give it serious thought. We would like to consider such a possibility when the specifics of the needs and scale become clear,” Nakatani was quoted as telling Louise Frechette, deputy secretary general of the U.N., during talks at the U.N. headquarters in New York.

At a news conference following the talks, Nakatani suggested that he will visit East Timor to explore the possibility of deployment.

Nakatani stressed that the move applies to fresh peacekeeping operations and not to the current peacekeeping effort under way in East Timor. He indicated Japan would engage in deployment of this kind in January or afterward.

Frechette asked that Japan play a greater role in peacekeeping, saying that if Japanese missions cannot protect fellow peacekeepers from other countries, it would have a negative effect on Japanese participation, according to the officials.

Nakatani said Japan intends to send SDF personnel as individual participants to the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, which is monitoring several ceasefires in the Middle East.

He also indicated Japan’s willingness to send SDF personnel to the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

as well as to strengthen and expand the SDF mission currently participating in the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

During a phone conversation Thursday with Richard Armitage, U.S. deputy secretary of state, Nakatani was told that the entire administration of President George W. Bush is preparing for the Japan-U.S. summit at Camp David, Md., on June 30.

Armitage also indicated that Japan’s economic reform plans and security issues will form the main agenda of the talks, officials said.

Nakatani, on his first U.S. visit since becoming defense minister on April 26, later arrived in Washington for talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The talks were to take place Friday.

Topics on the agenda include the U.S. missile defense plan, means of promoting the Japan-U.S. alliance, the situation in China and on the Korean Peninsula, and U.S. military bases in Okinawa, according to the officials.

Nakatani will return to Tokyo on Sunday.

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