National

GSDF to build high-tech Iraq fort

by Nao Shimoyachi

The roughly 90 Ground Self-Defense Force members who left Tuesday for Iraq will oversee the construction of what is expected to be one of the most high-tech, well-equipped forts on Earth.

Infrared surveillance cameras and sensors will monitor the gate of the 700- to 800-sq.-meter camp, located in a muddy field outside the southern Iraqi city of Samawah, to back up triple-security checks by GSDF personnel, according to the Defense Agency’s plan.

The camp will be surrounded by barbed wire, a berm and moat. Special radar systems will be used to detect movement on the ground to prevent mortar or artillery attacks.

Inside the camp, GSDF personnel will have Internet access, karaoke, games, an athletic ground and a gym.

Medical personnel will be stationed there to provide mental health care.

SDF camps in past peacekeeping missions have been noted for their well-equipped facilities, compared with those of other nations.

None, however, will surpass the planned camp in Samawah.

Heightened security concerns and a lack of local amusement facilities will make it the most heavily guarded and well-equipped base in the 13-year history of the SDF’s overseas missions.

Local people hired by the GSDF will take care of most of the construction work in a bid to improve employment in the city.

Some 50 Iraqis have been working to prepare a camp access road under the supervision of an advance GSDF unit that arrived in Samawah on Jan. 19.

The roughly 90 GSDF members will be joined by 440 GSDF troops.

About one-third of the 550 troops to be deployed to Samawah, including the 30 who are already there as part of the advance team, will assume security duties, government sources said. The rest will engage in the main humanitarian work of water purification, medical relief and school repairs.

Dispatch still opposed

Staff report

Opposition parties reiterated Tuesday their opposition to the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces personnel to Iraq.

They said the U.S.-led coalition forces have been unable to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and neither the war nor the SDF dispatch can be justified. The government is sending troops without appropriate Diet deliberation, they added.

“I still believe the SDF should not go there,” said Tadayoshi Ichida, head of the Japanese Communist Party secretariat.

SDF activities will fall under the control of the coalition forces, which would violate the war-renouncing Constitution, he said.

Democratic Party of Japan leader Naoto Kan said Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi bears a grave responsibility for making the “wrong decision” in ordering the dispatch.