Japan’s decision to send Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq, coupled with the decision to introduce a missile defense system, marks a major turning point for the nation’s defense and security policy. Never in its 50-year history has the SDF been mobilized for noncombat duties in a foreign country in a de facto state of war.

It is an agonizing decision made by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi after weighing the two oft-conflicting premises of Japanese foreign policy: the Japan-U.S. alliance and U.N.-centered international cooperation.

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