The Defense Agency has started deliberations on whether to train Ground Self-Defense Force troops to fight guerrillas and terrorists and dispatch them along with other GSDF personnel to Iraq, sources said Monday.
The special troops are being considered in light of the current security situation in Iraq, according to the sources.
Although the GSDF does not have troops specifically trained to combat guerrillas, the agency would gather elite elements from various units nationwide and train them to counter such terrorist activities as suicide bombings.
It would also compile a code of conduct that clearly states under what circumstances the troops would be allowed to use their weapons.
The government has said the GSDF elements expected to be dispatched to Iraq sometime in the fall would engage in water purification efforts to supply drinking water to U.S. troops and civilians. The special troops would provide those GSDF units with security, the sources said.
People are concerned that Japanese troops could be drawn into conflict in Iraq, a situation of great domestic concern in light of the war-renouncing Constitution and the strict limitations on the use of weapons overseas.
The agency’s move to consider dispatching special troops only adds to those concerns, political analysts said.
Japan is in the final stages of creating a special law to allow the government to send Self-Defense Forces personnel to Iraq. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to send the first troops possibly in October, after the Diet enacts the law, a government source said earlier.