The government made it official Thursday: the Self-Defense Forces troops in Iraq will stay for another year, as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi renewed his commitment to reconstruction efforts and to Japan's alliance with the United States.

The current one-year deployment, which has also seen SDF units dispatched to Kuwait, was set to expire next Tuesday. The plan was revised during an extraordinary Cabinet meeting Thursday afternoon to allow the deployment to run through Dec. 14, 2005.

During a news conference, Koizumi argued that Japan's involvement in reconstruction efforts is important for the future of Iraq, adding that it is also in Japan's own national interests.