Defense Agency Director General Yoshinori Ono sought Tuesday to downplay concerns over security in the southern Iraq city of Samawah, after the agency said the previous day that it had canceled a tour for Japanese reporters to cover the Self-Defense Forces’ activities there slated for later this month.

“We have decided that it would not be good, as it is the time when the Australian troops take over security duties from the British troops,” he said after a Cabinet meeting.

Ono repeatedly apologized for the sudden cancellation and said the agency decided to scrap the plan “just in case.”

British troops are currently maintaining security in Al-Muthanna Province, whose capital is Samawah. With the deployment of Australian troops, the British contingent will be downsized until the total number of British and Australian forces reaches around 600.

On Monday, Defense Agency spokesman Masayoshi Tatsumi explained that an unexpected situation could ensue and that the trip would have coincided with the deployment of Australian troops to the area.

But Tatsumi said the sudden cancellation didn’t mean the Defense Agency has obtained new information indicating security in Samawah has deteriorated.

“We have judged it necessary to exercise as much caution as possible,” he told reporters.

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