HAKONE, Kanagawa Pref. — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed Saturday with his British counterpart, Tony Blair, that there were justifiable grounds to launch the war against Iraq.
Koizumi’s remark was apparently an effort to boost the embattled Blair, who is being accused in Britain of cooking up a security report that was cited as the chief reason for Britain going to war with Iraq.
Koizumi cited a series of United Nations resolutions as justifiable reasons for Japan supporting the war.
“I praise your courageous political decision,” Koizumi said in his meeting with Blair, according to a Japanese official who briefed reporters later. “It is important for a politician not to flinch, despite criticism.”
Japan intends to send Self-Defense Forces personnel to Iraq after a bill that allows their dispatch is cleared by the Diet, probably by the end of the month. But Koizumi said Japan will carefully decide when the troops will be dispatched and where they will be based.
Blair welcomed Japan’s participation in Iraq, saying it would help ensure global peace and security. He added that Tokyo is playing a key role in the international community, not only as an economic power but also as a political one.
Blair expressed support for Koizumi’s claim that South Korea and Japan should be included in multilateral talks to resolve Pyongyang’s suspected development of nuclear weapons. Koizumi added that Russia could also participate in the talks.
“Although North Korea has repeatedly made provocative remarks, we will deal with the matter as calmly as possible,” Koizumi was quoted as saying.
A Chinese envoy visited North Korea last week to urge Pyongyang, which has demanded one-on-one talks with the U.S., to resume discussions. The U.S. is opposed to bilateral talks but hinted that three-way discussions with North Korea and China may be an alternative.
The Japanese officials said Myanmar’s prolonged detention of prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is another area of concern to both leaders, but they did not have time to discuss the issue.
The two leaders also signed agreements to enhance bilateral cooperation in the fields of science, technology, environmental issues and information and communication technology. They also discussed mutual investment and the promotion of tourism.
It is Blair’s third trip to Japan as prime minister following a visit in January 1998 and another in July 2000 for the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa.
Blair had planned to visit Japan in April but delayed the trip because of the Iraq war, which began in March. He is to leave for South Korea on Sunday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Blair gave a speech in Tokyo to business and political leaders.
On Britain’s adoption of the euro, Blair said that although monetary union is in the interests of his country in the long term, he will take its economic situation into account before deciding the right time to join.
“Entry at the wrong moment . . . could hinder rather than enhance our medium-term growth prospects,” he said. “We will recommend membership and in the meantime we will work to ensure the economics are right.”
Executives of three of Japan’s leading automakers — Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Hiroshi Okuda, Honda Motor Co. President Takeo Fukui and Nissan Motor Co. President Carlos Ghosn — repeated their call that Britain join the single currency system in a meeting shortly after the speech.
In his speech, Blair also expressed support for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s reform agenda, including deregulation measures, saying his policies are the key to Japan’s return to robust growth.