• Kyodo

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Gen. Hajime Massaki, chief of staff of the Ground Self-Defense Force, is planning to visit Samawah as early as this month to inspect the GSDF’s activities, sources said Sunday.

The Defense Agency and other relevant organizations are now in the final stages of talks over his visit, which is aimed at boosting troop moral amid split public opinion over their dispatch to assist in reconstruction work, they said.

It would be the first time for any GSDF chief of staff to set foot in an area where a military conflict is still ongoing. Observers said Massaki’s visit may also be intended to lay the groundwork for a similar trip by Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has also expressed a desire to visit the troops “if the situation allows.”

The troops stationed in Samawah are on a mission to rebuild local infrastructure, provide drinking water and offer medical services.

Those already there are currently constructing a camp outside the city, with the entire GSDF force to arrive by the end of the month.

According to the sources, the GSDF had been considering a visit by Massaki for some time but could not begin actual coordination with relevant parties because negotiations with local landowners over the land for the Japanese camp had dragged on.

The conclusion of those talks in late February brought the visit of the chief of staff closer to realization, they said.

The sources added, however, that the schedule could change should there be major changes in the local security situation, such as attacks on the GSDF or Japanese in Samawah.

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