Top government officials breathed a sigh of relief Friday after Britain announced it will send troops to the Iraqi province where Ground Self-Defense Force troops are stationed to take over security from Dutch forces leaving in March.
Although Britain has said its troops would work with Iraqi security forces in the province, some Japanese government officials have expressed doubts over the plan, pointing out that the foreign military presence will decline by 800 when the Dutch leave.
But Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura brushed aside the concerns, saying the security situation in Samawah, the provincial capital and site of the GSDF camp, remains relatively stable and Dutch troops have been training Iraqi police to maintain security.
“Considering these conditions, we think the security situation will continue to be stable,” Machimura told reporters.
Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono agreed, saying separately that considering the security situation in Samawah, the size of the British contingent is appropriate.
However, he said he will consider a proposal to install a radar system at the GSDF camp that can pinpoint the landing and launch sites of mortar rounds and rockets.
“I will do my utmost to ensure the safety of the (GSDF) personnel,” he said.
Fifth unit gears up
NAGOYA (Kyodo) The Ground Self-Defense Force held a ceremony Friday in Nagoya to mark the formation of a fifth contingent that will be sent to the southern Iraq town of Samawah.
About 500 GSDF troops, mainly from the 10th GSDF Division, attended the ceremony at Moriyama Garrison.
The first of three groups will leave leave from Nagoya airport after another ceremony that will be held around Feb. 5. The other two groups will leave over the following two weeks.
The GSDF members will have preliminary training in Kuwait before traveling to Samawah.
The members, previously stationed in the five prefectures covered by the 10th Division — Aichi, Mie, Ishikawa, Fukui and Gifu — will replace the GSDF troops on duty until mid-February.
The soldiers’ three-month tour will include the continuation of such reconstruction work as building a water-supply system.
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