National

Okada reiterates opposition to SDF's Iraq deployment

Kyodo

Democratic Party of Japan leader Katsuya Okada reiterated his opposition to the dispatch of Japanese troops to Iraq when he met Tuesday with former U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary Joseph Nye in Boston, according to party members.

The head of Japan’s main opposition party also told Nye that the Japanese government should not provide rice aid to North Korea without first getting an adequate response from Pyongyang over demands that it scrap its nuclear arms programs and account for the Japanese it abducted, the members said.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi promised North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a May 22 summit in Pyongyang that Japan would provide 250,000 tons of food aid and medical supplies worth $10 million to North Korea in one or two months.

Nye, who served as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under former President Bill Clinton and is now a professor at Harvard University, asked Okada for cooperation over Iraq, saying the situation there cannot be left alone.

The DPJ leader was quoted as saying: “I understand the United States cannot back out of it, but that is not so for the Self-Defense Forces. Given (Japan’s pacifist) Constitution, I am against (the deployment) under the current situation.”

Japan has deployed about 550 ground troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah to provide drinking water to local communities, offer medical support and help in infrastructure rebuilding.

Regarding the July 11 House of Councilors election in Japan, Okada told Nye that the DPJ won one seat more than the Liberal Democratic Party and conveyed his resolve to unseat the Koizumi administration in the next House of Representatives election.

Okada also met with Harvard professor Ezra Vogel, author of “Japan as Number One,” and was quoted by an accompanying lawmaker as saying his party plans to prepare a bill to revise the Constitution by the end of next year.

However, Okada later corrected the report, saying the lawmaker had misquoted him.

“I only said we have to start preparing for the bill on the revision” and that he did not mean to imply an acceleration in the DPJ’s plan to begin compiling a draft in 2005.

Okada indicated during his meeting with Vogel, however, that amending the Constitution is not expected to become a political issue for the foreseeable future because the LDP, which is leaning toward a revision of the war-renouncing Article 9, has become more dependent on its ally, New Komeito, which is cautious about amending the article. The importance of New Komeito as a junior partner in the governing coalition increased after July’s Upper House election.

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