• Compiled From Staff, Kyodo Reports


Japan may ask U.S. and British coalition forces to guard Self-Defense Forces troops in Iraq due to the worsening security situation there, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Sunday.

“Because there are terrorists attacking the International Red Cross, there could be cases where we cannot provide medical assistance at hospitals without protection from the U.S. and British forces,” Koizumi said on a Fuji TV program.

The prime minister, in a series of morning television shows, also reiterated his desire to legitimize the SDF as the “national military” by revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

Koizumi appeared on the shows with leaders of other political parties as part of campaigning for the House of Representatives general election next week.

Turning to the issue of North Korea, Koizumi ruled out adopting the hardline position of seeking immediate economic sanctions over its abductions of Japanese nationals.

“Action by one country is ineffective,” he said. “I’m not considering that at the moment.”

Naoto Kan, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, meanwhile said Japan should ban remittances to the North as a means of applying pressure. The measure is intended to help bring back more Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea and enable families of the repatriated abductees to come to Japan.

The DPJ on Friday added to its policy platform a new pledge that the party will revise related laws to stop the flow of money if it gains power through the Nov. 9 Lower House election.

The money flow from Korean residents in Japan to North Korea is considered a precious source of foreign currency for the hermit state.

Families and supporters of the abductees have long called on the government to impose economic sanctions, but the government has turned down the request so far.

About the election, Koizumi said he will not be held responsible even if his Liberal Democratic Party fails to achieve its primary goal of winning a majority in the 480-seat chamber by itself, as long as the ruling coalition retains a majority in total.

The ruling parties are the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.

New Komeito President Takenori Kanzaki said if the LDP fails to remain the biggest force in the Diet, his party will not form a coalition with any of the current opposition parties to remain in power.

“We would go into the opposition side,” he said.

Koizumi cautious on taxes

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took a cautious stance Sunday on an opposition proposal to use tax revenues to fund basic pensions completely, instead of the current system of using premiums to cover two-thirds of pension benefits.

“What happens to a sense of unfairness between people who have paid premiums and those who haven’t?” Koizumi said on a morning talk show, apparently alluding to housewives who have not been required to pay pension premiums.

The largest opposition party has included the proposal as a long-term goal in its party manifesto.

How to reform the pension system amid the rapidly graying society is one of the key policy issues in the election.

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