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A top executive of the Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of Japan shouldering the financial cost of a possible United States-led war against Iraq as it did in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The executive also said Washington understands Tokyo’s stance and will not ask for financial assistance.

“We haven’t received any request (for financial help) and neither will we,” said the LDP lawmaker, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.

He did not elaborate on the reasons. But unlike at the time of the Gulf War, the Japanese government is now saddled with huge debts amid the deep-seated economic slump, and public polls have shown a majority of the public is opposed to a war without United Nations authorization.

During the 1991 war, Japan responded to a request by the U.S. by offering $13 billion after failing to make any physical contribution to the U.S.-led multinational operations, such as dispatching personnel for logistic support.

The effort was criticized as “checkbook diplomacy,” which sparked internal policy debates over what role Japan should play in times of international military crises.

“We won’t shoulder war costs. . . . Our effort was not appreciated much in the time of the Gulf War, (and we) faced criticism that we only offered money,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official. “Instead, we would offer (postwar) reconstruction aid.”

The LDP executive also said Japan is willing to offer aid to postwar reconstruction efforts of Iraq should a war occur. But he quickly added that Japan is now making efforts to avoid war, and that nothing concrete on postwar aid has been decided.

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