Japan plans to send civilians including government personnel and private-sector experts to Iraq, possibly by the end of the year, to help renovate schools and set up clinics and businesses, government sources said Sunday.

The civilian participation will be incorporated in the government’s basic plan for assisting Iraq’s reconstruction by deploying Self-Defense Forces to noncombat zones, the sources said.

The basic plan, expected to be endorsed by the Cabinet some time in November, would call for dispatching a few dozen civilians to Iraq along with 150 members of the Ground Self-Defense Force in December, although the precise timing depends on the security situation.

The office in the Cabinet Secretariat preparing the dispatch will be expanded so it can select appropriate members of the civilian team and work out the specifics of their activities, according to the sources.

Japan recently pledged a total of $5 billion to fund efforts to rebuild Iraq for a four-year period starting in 2004 at a donors’ conference in Madrid and has been working on plans to dispatch SDF personnel to the relatively safe southern part of Iraq to work on securing water and power supplies.

The office preparing for the SDF dispatch currently comprises seven people with expertise in foreign affairs and defense, but a government mission to Iraq from mid-September to early October found numerous technical needs.

According to the team’s assessment, such needs include technical assistance for running a cement factory, helping rebuild medical provision systems and restoring facilities and infrastructure such as roads.

The preparatory office is expected to be expanded to about 20 members.

SDF shakeup eyed

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Sunday that the Self-Defense Forces must improve efficiency to better tackle transnational threats such as terrorism and missile attacks.

“The world is facing new threats such as terrorism and ballistic missiles,” Koizumi said in an address at a naval review of the Maritime Self-Defense Force at Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture.

“The SDF must drastically review its current organization and equipment, and become more efficient so it can deal appropriately with these (threats),” he said.

Concerning the plan to dispatch SDF personnel to noncombat zones in Iraq, said his administration will make thorough preparations while taking troop safety into consideration.

Koizumi also voiced gratitude to the MSDF members who have been deployed on vessels in the Arabian Sea for providing logistic support to the United States and its allies for antiterrorism military operations in and around Afghanistan.

“I pay my heartfelt respects to the efforts of those personnel who have gone far away from Japan and are working on tasks such as refueling and transporting under harsh circumstances,” he said.

A total of 52 vessels, including Japan Coast Guard patrol ships, 53 SDF aircraft and some 8,500 personnel took part in Sunday’s naval review, featuring a maritime parade by state-of-the-art Aegis destroyers and other warships, submarines and transport ships.

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