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The Defense Agency has decided to procure about 540 berets for use by the Ground Self-Defense Force in Iraq, even though the government has yet to make an official decision to send troops to the war-torn country, according to agency officials.

The agency is planning to open bidding on the headgear on Wednesday, they said.

Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya told Kyodo News that the agency is going ahead with the plan, and said the berets will not go to waste even if the government opts not to send the GSDF to Iraq.

“At this point, we will only purchase these kinds of things,” Moriya added. Despite his efforts to downplay the plan, it is likely that the agency’s move will spur criticism.

This is the first time that specific preparations by the agency for the dispatch of troops have been revealed.

According to an agency bulletin dated Tuesday, the successful bidder must deliver 139 berets to a GSDF depot in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, by Nov. 21 and 405 to a depot in Eniwa, Hokkaido, by Dec. 5.

Japan is in the final stages of coordinating its dispatch of troops to Samawa in southern Iraq, a location viewed as relatively safe, following a recent study trip by Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency officials.

The government is considering sending an advance team of about 150 troops to Samawa by the end of the year before dispatching a main unit of about 550 troops from January through February.

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