Japan is not dispatching the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq because it was requested to do so by the United States, but because Japan’s interests are involved, Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba said Sunday.

“It’s not because the U.S. asked us,” Ishiba said on a Fuji TV talk show.

He said the SDF dispatch is necessary in consideration of Japan’s dependence on Middle East oil and the need to help improve the daily lives of Iraqis, such as by securing sufficient water and electricity.

Ishiba implied that the Defense Agency is considering dispatching Air Self-Defense Force transport aircraft and an advance unit of the Ground Self-Defense Force by the end of the year.

“It’s not as if we’re beginning from scratch,” he said. “There are all kinds of possibilities and we are organizing them in our heads.”

But Ishiba refrained from touching on the timing or scale of the SDF dispatch, saying, “It would go against civilian rule if the Defense Agency were to make decisions before the survey mission returns and the government’s policy is decided.”

A government mission is currently in Iraq to gain information on the security and political situation there.

As for SDF participation in the U.N.-led multinational force in Iraq that U.S. President George W. Bush is calling for, Ishiba suggested that care should be taken to ensure that any deployments of SDF troops are in line with the special law on Iraq reconstruction enacted in July.

“There are the issues of leadership and the right of collective defense as well as how Japan can take subjective actions,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s not as if Japan is free to do everything it likes by itself.”

Government sources said Saturday that an advance GSDF unit will be sent to Iraq as early as December under the new law, which enables SDF troops to be sent to noncombat zones in Iraq.

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