Japan will “definitely” send Self-Defense Forces to Iraq to take part in reconstruction efforts there, Taku Yamasaki, the ruling LDP’s No. 2 official, said Sunday.

Defense chief Shigeru Ishiba said separately that SDF troops will initially focus on humanitarian aid rather than security and indicated that a government plan detailing the dispatch will likely come by October.

Yamasaki, the Liberal Democratic Party secretary general, said on a TV news show, “We will definitely send (SDF troops) somehow as we have declared our cooperation with the international community by dispatching the SDF.”

Yamasaki also said he is confident some areas of Iraq are combat-free, making it possible for SDF troops to operate in those places. Under the law enacted Saturday, the SDF’s duties are restricted to noncombat areas.

“We won’t know until we examine (the situation),” Yamasaki said when asked if it is possible to draw a line between combat and noncombat areas in Iraq. “We would like to make full preparations by sending a government mission.”

On a separate news show, Defense Agency Director General Ishiba said, “I expect (SDF troops) to initially put greater emphasis on humanitarian and reconstruction assistance,” such as supplying water and restoring power.

On how long the government will take to draw up a basic plan on sending the SDF to Iraq, Ishiba said, “I think it will take a couple of months or so.”

Up in opposition

Japan will not send Self-Defense Forces to Iraq if a Democratic Party of Japan-led opposition alliance takes control of the government, DPJ chief Naoto Kan said Sunday.

Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the opposition Liberal Party, also expressed opposition to the new law enabling Japan to send SDF troops to as part of reconstruction and humanitarian efforts. Ozawa, however, hinted that he is willing to consider alternative SDF-dispatch plans.

Both Kan and Ozawa appeared together on NHK and TV Asahi talk shows Sunday morning. The DPJ and Liberal Party agreed last week to merge into one party.

They made the comments one day after the Diet enacted a government-sponsored bill to send SDF troops to Iraq. Both the DPJ and the Liberal Party opposed the legislation.

“Hopefully, the new party (the merged DPJ and Liberal Party) will create a different scheme (for SDF dispatch to Iraq),” Ozawa said.

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